Mass deportations, detention camps, troops on the street: Trump spells out migrant plan

Donald Trump is planning to unleash the biggest mass deportation of undocumented migrants in US history should he win re-election in November, involving legally questionable deployments of military and police units and the creation of vast detention camps along the southern border.

Trump has laid out his vision for a “record-setting deportation operation” in a series of rally speeches, newspaper articles and social media posts. He intends to move swiftly after inauguration day next January to stage mass roundups of immigrants across the country, conducting raids inside big cities where he would face certain Democratic opposition.

“On day one, we will begin the largest domestic deportation operation in American history,” Trump said at a campaign rally in Freeland, Michigan, on Wednesday. He told his adoring supporters that immigrants were coming in by the millions from foreign prisons and “insane asylums” leading to the “plunder, rape, slaughter and destruction of the American suburbs, cities and towns”.

Immigration experts say that the deportation plans for a Trump White House 2.0 dwarf anything previously seen – both in scale and in the intensity of the former president’s determination to run roughshod over legal guardrails. He attempted workplace raids during his 2016 presidential term, but they were largely stymied in the courts.

“This time we need to take Trump at his word,” said David Leopold, a former president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. “When he talks about mass deportation – in boxcars, or bus loads, or planes, or whatever – that’s what he’s going to do.”

Stephen Miller, Trump’s former senior White House policy adviser and hardline immigration guru who is likely to be central in a second term, told the rightwing activist Charlie Kirk in a podcast interview that the plans were going to be pushed through. “I want everybody to understand this is going to happen. If President Trump is back in the Oval Office in January, this is going to commence immediately.”

In an interview with Time magazine this week, Trump emphasized that speed was critical to his strategy for removing many of the at least 11 million people without legal status living in the US today.

“We’re going to be moving them out as soon as we get to it,” he said.

To skirt around due process laws protecting asylum seekers, Trump has said he will invoke the 1798 Alien Enemies Act which allows for summary deportation of any non-citizen from a foreign enemy country. He says he will apply the provision in the first instance against “known or suspected gang members, drug dealers, or cartel members”.

Immigration experts fear that such summary removals could ensnare US citizens in the dragnet.

“Trump will have his agents remove people, then ask questions later. If somebody looks like they’re undocumented, meaning they have brown or black skin, or speak with an accent, they could be included irrespective of their citizenship,” Leopold warned.

Mass deportation would form the centerpiece of a Trump second term. It aligns with other aspects of his vision for the 47th presidency, which promises to be more ruthless, radical and revenge-laden than any administration in modern times.

The former president will be counting on the rightward shift in the federal judiciary, which he effected when he was last in the White House. Over the four years of his presidential term, he placed more than 200 judges on the bench, and succeeded in transforming the US supreme court into a rightwing bastion.

Families are housed in overcrowded conditions at a US border patrol station on 10 June 2019 in McAllen, Texas, during Trump’s first term. Photograph: Getty Images

With Trump and his team setting their sights on deporting more than a million people each year, the operation would inevitably require major infrastructure including new detention camps. Miller said that “large-scale staging grounds” would be constructed near the border, probably in Texas.

“You create this efficiency by having these standing facilities where planes are moving off the runway constantly, probably military aircraft,” Miller told Kirk.

Flesh has been placed on the bones of Trump’s immigration plans by Project 2025, a presidential transition operation spearheaded by the rightwing Heritage Foundation that has compiled a 920-page policy review aiming to “institutionalize Trumpism”. By its calculations, the daily number of beds in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice) detention centers would need to rise from the current 34,000 to more than 100,000.

Ice itself should be given free rein to carry out “civil arrest, detention, and removal of immigration violators anywhere in the United States, without warrant where appropriate”, Project 2025 says (emphasis in the original). The Trump campaign has stressed that outside groups like Heritage do not speak for the former president, but the policies contained in the review hew closely to his intentions and are likely to provide foundations for administration policy.

Even with its 21,000 employees, Ice would be overwhelmed by the task of rounding up millions of people without the involvement of other entities. Trump told Time magazine that he would turn initially to the national guard, and then to the US military.

“If I thought things were getting out of control, I would have no problem using the military,” he said.

When Time pointed out that under the 1878 Posse Comitatus Act, the military is prohibited in most circumstances from acting domestically against civilians, Trump replied: “Well, these aren’t civilians. These are people that aren’t legally in our country.”

In fact, undocumented immigrants are civilians (though not citizens). As such, they enjoy equal protection rights under the US constitution.

Trump likens his immigration plans to the mass deportation of some 300,000 Mexicans by President Dwight Eisenhower in 1955. Though Trump is contemplating massively greater numbers, the two plans bear striking similarities.

Both schemes were justified using racist stereotypes of immigrants. Eisenhower’s was called “Operation Wetback” and portrayed Mexicans as dirty and dangerous.

Trump repeatedly talks about “migrant crime” at his rallies, telling Wednesday’s crowd in Michigan that prisons and mental institutions all around the world were being “emptied into the United States like we are a dumping ground”. Notably, criminologists report that immigrants – whether they have legal status or not – are more law-abiding than US-born citizens.

Mass roundups are likely to threaten the “Dreamers”, the more than half a million immigrants who came to the US as undocumented children and who have been granted partial rights to remain under the deferred action program known as Daca. Trump has indicated he intends to tear up the Daca scheme, which he tried and failed to do in his first term.

Texas national guard troops try to untangle a person caught in razor wire after he crossed the US-Mexico border into El Paso on 31 January 2024. Photograph: John Moore/Getty Images

Trump also plans to use state and local police forces to assist Ice in roundups. That would be embraced with alacrity by Republican-controlled states like Texas where the governor, Greg Abbott, is already striving to give state police the power to arrest undocumented migrants.

But it would be fiercely opposed in Democratic states which have tended to place a firewall between their law enforcement officers and federal immigration activities. Undocumented people are concentrated in big cities under Democratic control, such as New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, raising the specter under Trump’s plans of open confrontation between law enforcement agencies receiving conflicting orders from authorities led by the two main parties.

Miller said that Republican governors would be encouraged to deploy their national guard over the border into Democratic-controlled states where undocumented migrants enjoy so-called “sanctuary city” protections. Virginia’s Republican governor, Glenn Youngkin, could send troops into Maryland which has a Democratic governor, Wes Moore.

“If you’re going to go into an unfriendly state like Maryland, well, there would just be Virginia doing the arrest in Maryland, right, very close,” he told Kirk’s podcast.

Leopold predicted that pitching one state against another would quickly deteriorate into a “police state mentality”.

“Are we going to see a complete breakdown of the unity of the American state?” he said. “It’s possible.”

Title: Mass deportations, detention camps, troops on the street: Trump spells out migrant plan
Source: the Guardian
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Date: May 3, 2024 at 03:38PM
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