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California law will bar cities and counties from providing information for a ‘Muslim registry’

A discussion at the Islamic Center of Cedar Rapids, in Iowa, in November 2016. (John Richard / For The Times)
A discussion at the Islamic Center of Cedar Rapids, in Iowa, in November 2016. (John Richard / For The Times)

Gov. Jerry Brown signed a closely watched bill on Sunday to block the creation of any so-called Muslim registry should President Trump choose to act on a proposal he repeatedly suggested during his 2016 campaign.

Senate Bill 31 by state Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) bars state and local governments from releasing personal information to the federal government for the creation of any religious list, registry or database. It also prohibits them from using resources to create their own lists.

Dubbed the California Religious Freedom Act, the bill coasted through the legislative process this year, the only proposal to gain bipartisan support from a package introduced by majority Democrats to counter Trump's policies.

In authoring the bill, Lara cited an NBC News interview in which Trump, then a presidential candidate, said there "should be a lot of systems," beyond a database, that track Muslims in the country. As evidence the president could follow through on that idea, supporters of SB 31 pointed to the creation of travel bans from seven predominantly Muslim countries.

Reza Nekumanesh, executive director of the Islamic Cultural Center of Fresno, said the fear of a registry was a reality for Muslim communities. It was only a year ago that, he said, that Trump surrogates referenced Japanese internment camps from World War II as "precedent" for a Muslim registry.

"Every time we have thought about registering people based on ethnicity, based on religion, no good has come of it," Nekumanesh said.

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