Trump cites history to defend Muslim immigration ban

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Donald Trump's proposal to block Muslim immigration to the U.S. is igniting controversy and raising questions about his understanding of American history. (KABC)

Donald Trump's proposal to block Muslim immigration to the U.S. is igniting controversy and raising questions about his understanding of American history.

The Republican presidential candidate used historical references to back up his proposal. In an interview with George Stephanopoulous on "Good Morning America" on Tuesday, Trump recalled the actions of President Franklin Roosevelt during World War II. He also shut down immigration and ordered over a 100,000 Japanese-Americans into internment camps.

"What I'm doing is no different than FDR," Trump said.

Trump went on to cite three presidential proclamations made by Roosevelt the day after the Dec. 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor attack, which dramatically limited the rights of Japanese, German and Italian nationals living in the United States.

"So you're for internment camps?" Stephanopoulous asks.

"This was a president highly respected by all. He did the same thing," Trump said.

What Trump may not recall is wide scale racial profiling triggered by Roosevelt's actions.

"In looking back at history, it's important not to distort history in order to serve the needs of the present," said Jane Hong, assistant professor of history at Occidental College.

Hong points to the fallout in the decades after the war. A Congressional Commission denounced the internment camps. Reparations followed along with and apology from President Ronald Reagan.

What caused the camps? The congressional report found three contributing factors.

"The first was wartime hysteria, the second was racial prejudice and the third was the failure of political leadership," Hong explained.

Roosevelt won praise for providing comfort during anxious times. Yet his strategy regarding Japanese-Americans, in retrospect, was a mistake according to politicians and historians. Hong says there are lessons learned after other nationalities were also barred from entering the U.S., including Asians in in the 1920s and 1930s.

Today, many Americans may fail to recognize the loyalty of Muslims in the U.S. Some were soldiers who are buried in Arlington cemetery with full military honors. They fought as Green Berets and the infantry, paying with their lives.

Hong says excluding immigrants based on religious beliefs would violate a core American value.

"To pass a law like this today would be to distort or fundamentally violate the very principles on which this country was founded," Hong said.

This is not the first time during this presidential campaign that Trump has praised the actions of an earlier president. During the fourth debate, Trump touted the deportation plan used by President Dwight Eisenhower in addressing Mexican immigrants.

ABC News contributed to this report.
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politicsdonald trumpmuslimsimmigrationu.s. & worldhistorypresidential race
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