Indicted former President Donald Trump launched his first presidential campaign by descending his golden escalators and calling Mexican immigrants criminals and rapists. Following his victory in 2016, his administration launched a barrage of attacks on immigrant communities across the U.S., including rescinding the popular and successful Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Trump further slashed refugee admissions to a record low, moved to terminate Temporary Protected Status for hundreds of thousands of immigrants with deep roots in the U.S., and sought to detain migrant children indefinitely by seeking an end to the Flores agreement. He’s now seeking a second term after his violent coup attempt failed in 2021 and promises to reinstate many of his cruel and extreme anti-immigrant policies, such as Remain in Mexico. Trump is also proposing to go even further should he return to the White House, including signing an executive order that purports to end birthright citizenship, expanding the Muslim ban, and looking to turn the border into a war zone. This is not just an attack on immigrants, but on U.S. citizens too. We are also witnessing Trump’s candidacy pushing the entire GOP field to the extreme right, as he did during his first presidential campaign. We called Trump’s comments and policies racist early on. Nothing’s changed since then.
Here is what you need to know about Donald Trump’s immigration plans:
- Continues to promote white nationalist conspiracy theory that immigrants are a literal “invasion”: Donald Trump has continued to amplify white nationalist “invasion” rhetoric as part of his 2024 campaign, falsely claiming that there is a “massive invasion” at our southern border. Trump has been one of the worst purveyors of this extremist rhetoric. In the days following the El Paso tragedy in 2019, Trump refused to stop advertising that featured “invasion” language, even after this rhetoric was cited by the racist mass shooter. A USA Today analysis that same year found that Trump had used incendiary language, including “invasion,” “animals,” and “killers,” to describe migrants at rallies more than 500 times. “This is an invasion,” Trump claimed at a Florida rally just a few months before the deadly attack. “I was badly criticized for using the word invasion. It’s an invasion.” The racist mass shooter who killed 23 people and injured 22 others at the El Paso Walmart had complained about a “Hispanic invasion” of Texas. Trump at that same Florida rally laughed when a supporter suggested shooting migrants at the border. “How do you stop these people?” Trump complained. “Shoot them!” an audience member yelled to cheering. Trump did not rebuke the call to violence, and said that “only in the Panhandle you can get away with that stuff.”
- Proposes to wage war in Mexico: Trump has long proposed waging violence within the borders of our ally and neighbor Mexico, and during his administration supported labeling Mexican cartels “terrorist organizations,” a designation that Mexican officials worried “could open the door to U.S. military intervention,” Reuters reported in 2019. Former Secretary of Defense Mark Esper later said that Trump suggested “that maybe we have the U.S. military shoot missiles into Mexico… to go after the cartels,” CBS News reported earlier this year. Trump has continued this push as he seeks a second term. “In recent weeks, Donald Trump has discussed sending ‘special forces’ and using ‘cyber warfare’ to target cartel leaders if he’s reelected president and, per Rolling Stone, asked for ‘battle plans’ to strike Mexico,” Politico reported in April. Axios reports that further plans include sending the Coast Guard and Navy “to form a blockade” at sea against cartels. Most drugs, however, come through land ports of entry by U.S. citizens. Florida’s Ron DeSantis has since echoed this dangerous proposal to wage war in Mexico, in an attempt to win over the GOP base. Candidates are picking a fight with Mexico with talk of bombs, drone strikes and unilateral military campaigns under the misguided excuse of combating fentanyl when the data are clear that fentanyl is not an immigration issue.
- Pledges to reinstate ineffective and cruel Remain in Mexico and Title 42 policies and expand the discriminatory Muslim ban: Trump has pledged to reinstate Remain in Mexico and Title 42, two cruel anti-asylum policies that were struck down in the courts and ultimately terminated by the Biden administration. The Trump campaign has pledged to “restore all Trump border policies,” which would include Remain in Mexico and Title 42. Remain in Mexico, officially known as Migrant Protection Protocols, embodied the Trump administration’s racist and anti-immigrant hostilities, ultimately forcing thousands of migrants to wait in dangerous regions of Mexico for their U.S. immigration court dates. Many were kidnapped and held for ransom by criminals who preyed on the vulnerable. In public, Trump officials falsely defended the policy as safe. In court, they admitted it is in fact dangerous. Title 42, meanwhile, was a politically motivated order pushed through by former Vice President Mike Pence and White House Advisor Stephen Miller against the advice of public health experts. The policy was put in place under the guise of public health safety at the start of the novel coronavirus pandemic, but it was used to turn away migrants lawfully seeking asylum. Claims that Title 42 should be revived following its expiration this past May are nonsensical, because the policy was a disaster. The order “significantly increased overall border crossings,” American Immigration Council said. “In fact, 1 in 3 apprehensions since Title 42 expulsions began have been of a person on at least their second attempt to cross the border.” Axios reports Trump would also expand his discriminatory Muslim ban, which was rescinded by President Biden on his first day in office. He called the policy “a stain on our national conscience,” and “inconsistent with our long history of welcoming people of all faiths and no faith at all.”
- Refuses to rule out reinstating “zero tolerance,” which led to family separation: Trump has refused to rule out reinstating the family separation policy, one of the darkest moments of his presidency and modern U.S. history. “When you have that policy, people don’t come,” Trump said during a May 2023 CNN Town Hall. “If a family hears that they’re going to be separated—they love their family—they don’t come. I know it sounds harsh.” There’d no proof that the family separation did anything to deter migration to the U.S., but what it did do was inflict unspeakable trauma and harm on thousands of children and adults who were seeking better lives. Physicians for Human Rights, a humanitarian organization made up of medical professionals, said in a 2020 report that zero tolerance rose “to the level of torture,” and was a form of “enforced disappearance.” Distraught parents who begged for information about their children “were not given answers for weeks and months at a time,” the report said. Five years after the Trump administration failed to meet a court-ordered deadline to reunite families torn apart under the policy, hundreds of children remain separated due to rapid deportations of parents to Central America and lack of proper record-keeping that included “no way to link” separated families.
- Pledges to “ramp up ideological screening” and end birthright citizenship: Axios reports Trump again seeks to limit immigration, and plans to “ramp up ideological screening” to ban immigrants “‘who are deemed ‘Marxists.’” This is code for banning people he deems to be political opponents. Trump was also first among major GOP candidates to back the legally-dubious proposal to end birthright citizenship. “As part of my plan to secure the border, on Day One of my new term in office, I will sign an executive order making clear to federal agencies that under the correct interpretation of the law, going forward, the future children of illegal aliens will not receive automatic U.S. citizenship,” he said in May. However, automatic citizenship to all persons born in the U.S. is enshrined in our constitution, adopted after the Civil War to codify the citizenship of freed African-Americans. “Trump’s promise is unlikely to come to fruition, but its absurdity shouldn’t dismiss the true egregiousness of this campaign promise from the leading Republican presidential candidate,” America’s Voice Political Director Zachary Mueller said. Trump’s proposal is the product of crackpot scholar John Eastman, who was recently indicted by a Georgia grand jury on charges of conspiring to overturn the state’s rightful 2020 presidential results.