Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis this week unveiled his immigration plan. It’s ugly and extreme, pushing cruel and deadly proposals that are a reflection of the Republican Party’s race to the bottom on immigration.
The recently passed DeSantis anti-immigrant law in Florida is already facing massive blowback from Florida communities ahead of its July 1 implementation date. His presidential plan is even more extreme as DeSantis pushes for an end to birthright citizenship, supports the indefinite detention of vulnerable migrant children by stomping on the crucial Flores ruling, and supports wasting more U.S. taxpayer dollars on the Trump administration’s stupid and expensive border wall. That wall, by the way, was so effective that smugglers have simply dug under it or cut through it with $100 saws – an act that DeSantis said should result in deadly vigilante violence, an even more chilling remark considering how his state’s “stand your ground” laws have led to Floridians shooting first, then asking questions later.
DeSantis’ rollout was explicit in its endorsement of white nationalist conspiracies, including displaying a “stop the invasion” banner at his event. As noted earlier, DeSantis was also explicit in calls for violence, “supportive of one audience member who suggested that the situation at the border constituted an ‘act of war,’” the Associated Press reported. ‘You’re going to see as president under Article 2 of the Constitution, you have a responsibility and a duty to protect the country,” he told the audience member. “We are going to do that and we are going to do that robustly.’”
The Florida Republican is just the latest to pick up the mantle in the GOP’s long descent into dangerous extremism on immigration policy, with former President Donald Trump already having called for an end to birthright citizenship several weeks ago. America’s Voice Political Director Zachary Mueller called it “a legally dubious proposal that attacks the Constitution and strikes the heart of the best American ideals.”
“125 years ago, Wong Kim Ark, born in San Francisco to Chinese immigrants, fought under the racist Chinese Exclusion Act to firmly establish that birthright citizenship is enshrined in the 14th Amendment,” he continued. “But Trump would have us return to 1857 of the Dred Scott decision, where citizenship was firmly locked by white supremacy.”
Stephen Miller, a white nationalist extremist who, as a White House aide, was behind family separation at the southern border and engineered efforts seeking to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and Temporary Protected Status policies, had reportedly been planning a slew of immigration actions should Trump have won reelection in 2020. One of those proposals was an end to birthright citizenship. Even as hundreds of children remain torn from their parents due to the family separation policy, Trump last month also “refused to rule out reimplementing family separations at the southern border if elected president,” TIME reported.
“We have to save our country,” he said. “When you say to a family that if you come we’re going to break you up, they don’t come.” (Which, of course, is not true.)
Then there’s also the long-shot GOP candidates. Mike Pence has been portrayed by mainstream media as critical of Trump’s incitement of the Jan. 6 insurrection (a fairly low bar for someone who the mob called to be summarily executed), but on immigration, he stands by the old boss and has called for a return of several of his policies, including the inhumane Remain in Mexico policy ruled illegal by the federal courts, the failed anti-asylum Title 42 policy (which Pence helped force into place against the advice of public health experts), the banning of sanctuary cities to start mass deportations, and completion of the stupid and expensive border wall, Axios reports. “We know it works because it worked,” Pence claimed. “I was there, standing shoulder to shoulder with President Trump.” (Which, of course, is not true.)
The experts, by the way, said Title 42 actually increased crossings. “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,” American Immigration Council said last year. Pence had as Indiana governor also tried to ban the resettlement of Syrian refugees to his state. A conservative appeals court later ruled against his cruel action.
Nikki Haley, another Trump ally and South Carolina governor who entered the 2024 presidential race this past spring, called for the physically impossible: a closure to the border. “Close the border,” she tweeted. “It’s not rocket science.” If it’s as simple as she claims, why hasn’t she answered if she means shutting down our border with Canada too? Does she want to close off traffic to our two largest trading partners? What about airports, where immigrants, travelers, refugees and asylum seekers arrive? Just scratch the surface of nativist sloganeering, and it’s just pure policy absurdity but indicative of the stance the GOP has come to adopt on immigration and border issues. The Wilson Center estimated in 2019 that just shutting the U.S. Mexico border would cost the U.S. 5 million jobs.
Haley is still being mistakenly identified as a moderate candidate when just last year she urged the deportation of Raphael Warnock, the first Black senator from Georgia. Haley “made the comments during a rally with Mr. Warnock’s opponent, Herschel Walker,” The New York Times reported at the time. “‘So the only person we need to make sure we deport is Warnock,’ she said to a cheering crowd.” Haley has also doubled-down on her support for extremists Moms for Liberty, set to appear at an event for the organization later week after two of the group’s chapters were revealed to have quoted Adolf Hitler.
While former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has been pitched by the beltway media as the anti-Trump, he distanced himself from decidedly pro-immigrant sentiments and legislative wins from his time in office, like a bill that granted undocumented students in-state tuition at public colleges and universities. Remember the #TrumpEffect? While Christie was initially supportive of a pathway to citizenship, he disowned it after entering the 2016 race.
Christie also threatened to veto legislation that would make New Jersey roads safer by opening driver’s licenses to undocumented residents. He claimed he was “disturbed” by the proposal, which would have simply allowed parents to drive their kids to school with a little less worry about being separated or worse, and would have increased the chances that New Jersey drivers were insured. Maybe Christie would’ve been more supportive if he could have tracked them across the state like human FedEx packages?
By the way, New Jersey eventually opened up licenses thanks to Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy’s signature and continued efforts by immigrant advocates in the state. More than 100,000 people applied as of 2021.
The GOP has been on a decline that only took up steam after Trump descended his golden escalator in June 2015 and called Mexican immigrants criminals and “rapists.” This is who Republicans are – even as some have ancestors who may have been blocked from the U.S. under their anti-immigrant stances and policies. Major candidates have ancestors who came from somewhere else. Of course, these extremist candidates want to whitewash American history, so they may be unaware that America is built on immigrants.
“DeSantis ‘called for the end of chain migration’ – a pejorative term to describe the family-based immigrant visa process – even though his own family’s immigration story that of his great-great-grandmother, Luigia Colucci immigrating to the United States in early 1917 following her husband’s migration could be considered chain migration to some in the Republican Party today,” Political Associate Yuna Oh wrote earlier this year. Colucci didn’t know how to read or write, which would have barred her from entry to the U.S. under the Immigration Act of 1917 as an “undesirable.”
“But she was spared; the law didn’t go into effect until May. She was allowed in,” Tampa Bay Times reported in 2018. DeSantis’ “campaign did not respond to multiple requests for comment on his family lineage.”
There is still likely a year left in this GOP primary and candidates are already calling for murder, family separation, and a return to a white supremacist concept of citizenship. There may not be a bottom to their descent on immigration, but these GOP candidates will continue to compete to go further and further down despite the cost it may extract on the nation.