Hawaii’s two U.S. senators joined a growing chorus of politicians and civil rights organizations today in condemning comments made by a prominent supporter of President-elect Donald Trump that suggested World War-II era Japanese internment camps could serve as a precedent for creating a federal registry for Muslim immigrants in the United States.
“The internment of Japanese Americans was a dark chapter in our history. We should remember it and never repeat the same injustice,” U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz said in a statement. “Any suggestion that the classification of thousands of Japanese, Germans and Italians during the World War II as ‘enemy aliens’ should be used as a precedent is immoral and must be rejected by all Americans.”
U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono, who immigrated from Japan at 7-years-old with her mother, took to her Twitter account to criticize the comments.
“The internment of Japanese Americans more than 70 years ago set a precedent: that we should never let something like this happen again,” wrote Hirono.
In other tweets, she wrote:
“Are hate speech, racism, and xenophobia the new normal in our country? No they are not.”
“We cannot let fear dictate our path forward. An inclusive and vibrant America is worth fighting for.”
Hirono and Schatz, both Democrats, were reacting to comments made by former Navy SEAL Carl Higbie who said that there was legal precedent for creating an immigrant registry, which has been floated by a member of the Trump transition team.
“To be perfectly honest, it is legal. They say it will hold constitutional muster,” Higbie said during an interview with Fox News’ Megyn Kelly on Wednesday. “I know the ACLU is going to challenge it, but I think it will pass. We have done it with Iran back a while ago. We did it during World War II with Japanese.”
Higbie said that he wasn’t suggesting that the U.S. reinstate internment camps, but suggested that targeting certain ethnic groups or nationalities is OK if it’s in the interest of national security.
“What I am saying is we need to protect America first,” he said.
The comments have further inflamed concerns that Trump’s campaign and election have spurred racist and xenophobic rhetoric, causing an uptick in hate crimes and scaring immigrants and Muslim-Americans.
The comments about Japanese internment camps have hit a particular nerve in Hawaii, where more than 2,000 men and women of Japanese descent were interned in camps throughout the state following the bombing of Pearl Harbor.