Donald Trump Is Reportedly Planning an Anti-Immigrant “Blitz”

Legally dubious strategy includes mass round-ups, detainment camps, and loyalty tests.

Donald Trump in Kissimmee, Fla. on Nov. 4.Kyle Mazza/Zuma

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If Donald Trump wins back the presidency, he plans to quickly detain millions of undocumented immigrants in vast camps in Texas, try to end birthright citizenship, renew a version of his effort to ban Muslims from entering the United States, and deny visas to foreigners whose politics his advisers don’t like, the New York Times reported Saturday.

The draconian measures are part of a “blitz” described by far-right Trump immigration adviser Stephen Miller—as an effort to execute an array of problematic, and in some cases clearly illegal, steps to restrict legal immigration and deport millions before immigration-rights lawyers and federal courts can catch up.

Trump’s anti-immigrant plan is the latest detailed authoritarian blueprint to emerge from within the indicted former president’s brain trust. Trump, if elected, also reportedly plans to immediately invoke the Insurrection Act to “ allow him to deploy the military against civil demonstrations,” end civil service protections so he can fire large swaths of the federal workforce, and use the Justice Department to prosecute critics and political enemies.

It may not be news that Trump wants to do such things. But the specificity and resolve with which his advisers are preparing to implement his wishes is a major departure from Trump’s frenetic past attempts. Throughout his first term in office, Trump’s malicious intentions were often thwarted by his administration’s inexperience, incompetence, and advisers who tried to instill some presidential norms and prevent their boss from violating the law. Trump and his remaining loyalists, the Times notes, believe they will face no such restraints in a second term.

Here are further details of the measures Trump is planning, according to the Times:

End birthright citizenship. The 14th Amendment to the Constitution says anyone born on US soil is guaranteed citizenship. Trump hopes to sidestep the law by ordering federal agencies to stop issuing documents like Social Security cards and passports to any babies born to non-citizens. Though such a policy is unconstitutional on its face, Trump’s entourage hopes to have it in place prior to an eventual Supreme Court ruling.

End DACA: Trump would renew his efforts to end a popular Obama-era program that shields from deportation any undocumented people brought to the US as children. In 2020, the Supreme Court blocked Trump’s first effort to ditch the program, but today’s ultraconservative court might rule differently.

Ban (many) Muslims: Trump hopes to reinstate his ban on travel to the US from several Muslim majority countries. President Joe Biden ended that policy on his first day in office. Though Trump does not appear to plan to try to implement the sweeping “Muslim ban” he called for while campaigning in 2016, he regularly has said that is the goal of his policy.

Boot refugees: Trump intends to suspend America’s refugee program. His plans include possible deportation of tens of thousands of Afghans who settled in the Unites States in 2021, after the Taliban took over. Many of them are former allies or supporters of the US military who were allowed to enter the United States because of the likelihood they would be killed by the Taliban in reprisal. Under Trump’s plan, they would be “revetted.”

Loyalty tests for Israel. Trump has said he would cancel the visas of foreign students who took part in protests against Israel. He also wants to expand ideological screening of visa applicants to block people his backers consider “to have undesirable attitudes.” 

Round-ups. To achieve “mass deportation” of undocumented immigrants, including otherwise law-abiding people who have lived in the US for decades, Trump would order Immigration and Customs Enforcement to carry out sweeping raids. Instead of merely arresting specific individuals, the agency would detain large numbers of people in public places. Personnel from other federal law enforcement agencies, along with National Guard troops and police from willing local jurisdictions, would be deputized to help, according to Miller.

Camps. Miller said the new Trump administration would build “vast holding facilities,” likely “on open land in Texas near the border” for undocumented immigrants, who would be detained there until they are deported. 

Send in the troops. Trump also hopes to use the military to round up undocumented migrants. This is clearly illegal. The Posse Comitatus Act bars the deployment of US armed forces for domestic law enforcement. But Trump aims to get around that by invoking the Insurrection Act (again) with a claim that illegal border crossings constitute an anti-government “rebellion.” 

Declare a health emergency. Miller told the Times that Trump’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would invoke a public health law that allows the administration to expel visa-less asylum seekers who arrive at the border without first considering their claims. The administration applied a similar strategy during Covid, by means of an emergency rule known as Title 42. But without a pandemic, Miller said, the Trump cadre would simply claim that “severe strains of the flu, tuberculosis, scabies, other respiratory illnesses like RSV and so on, or just a general issue of mass migration being a public health threat,” constitute an emergency.

Put kids in cages? Trump’s draconian plans do not explicitly include a renewal of the family separation policy spearheaded by Miller and others, wherein more than 5,000 children, from infants to teens (including US born) were forcibly taken from their parents and even held in cages. (To this day, many still haven’t been reunited.) Despite a court ruling barring the policy, notes the Times, Trump has left open the possibility of resuming it.

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