Representative Mike Honda told The New Republic Thursday that President-elect Donald Trump must denounce Wednesday remarks from Carl Higbie, a spokesman for the pro-Trump Great America PAC, that the World War II–era internment of Japanese Americans created legal “precedent” for a government registry of Muslim immigrants.
“If Trump does not say something about this—does not disavow it—he will be failing in political leadership,” said Honda, a Democrat from California. “He will be failing in his own promise to make America great.”
In a Thursday morning interview with The New York Times, Higbie called interment camps “horrific” and said he opposed internment, but stood by his comments about legal precent.
“It’s really disturbing,” Honda said of Higbie’s original statement. “All it does is engender fear and anxiety in our communities.”
The congressman warned that this kind of rhetoric could lead the United States to repeat the mistakes of history, and said “Congress should go on record to say this kind of behavior will not be tolerated and we’ll fight it.”
Honda was interned with his family at a camp in Colorado for three years, beginning in 1942. His office released a full statement on Higbie’s comments Thursday:
These remarks are beyond disturbing. This is fear, not courage. This is hate, not policy. President Reagan, himself, called our internment a “failure of political leadership.” This does not make American great but would take us back to the bigotry of the 1940s. The Trump administration is showing they have not learned from our history when they suggest we go back to one of its darkest chapters. No one should go through what my family and 120,000 innocent people suffered regardless of their race or religion or any other way they would choose to try and divide us. I fought such divisive practices after 9/11 to ensure Muslims would not be unfairly targeted just as we were. Now today, I tell Mr. Trump that to reenact a policy fueled by prejudice is uncivilized, un-American and unworthy of a president sworn to uphold our Constitution.