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Trump’s 2025 Immigration Agenda

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The purpose of this document is to examine what Donald Trump and his allies have promised to do on immigration if he wins a second term. As we’ve noted since 2015, one of the primary tenets of Donald Trump’s previous campaigns and his presidency was cruelty to immigrants. It’s clear that the overriding focus for the Trump campaign heading into the November election remains his nativist attacks. In campaign stops, media hits, and political ads, Trump and his allies continue to make this case with a steady stream of ever-increasingly extreme rhetoric and promises. We will be updating the original document every month to provide new information and details to document the severity of the Trump 2025 agenda.

June 2024 Update: 

June ended with a Presidential Debate in Atlanta where Trump returned to vilifying immigrants in every refrain despite the question that was asked, spreading the familiar lies and nativist narratives that accompany almost every one of his political appearances. He even invoked the white nationalist replacement theory in a question about childcare. Repeating a version of the racist lie claiming that Biden was using non-white immigration to steal the upcoming election. However, Trump avoided talking about his signature campaign promise, mass deportation. CNN debate moderator Jake Tapper asked a very detailed question about the specifics of his mass deportation plans:

President Trump, staying on the topic of immigration, you’ve said that you’re going to carry out, quote, “the largest domestic deportation operation in American history,” unquote. Does that mean that you will deport every undocumented immigrant in America, including those who have jobs, including those whose spouses are citizens, and including those who have lived here for decades? And if so, how will you do it?

Trump refused to answer. He switched topics and then pivoted to tell more lurid and ugly lies about immigrants. His refusal to answer the question and dodge the details of a plan that would target the 80% of the uncommented community who has called the US home for at least the last decade, including Dreamers and TPS holders creating a mass family separation program to be carried out by a show-me-your-papers force made up of the military and deputized police. This is the single most consequential immigration topic of Trump’s 2024 campaign. But, when given a chance to explain how he would do it to the American people, he dodged.  

But Trump’s debate performance was a continuation of the vile attacks on immigrants throughout the month.

The month began with the Washington Post reporting that “Donald Trump used the term ‘holocaust,’ which usually refers to Nazi Germany’s industrial murder of 6 million Jews, to characterize a misleading claim about migrant children in the United States.” Yes, he did that by lying about missing migrant children.” The holocaust comparison is, of course, despicable. And, it’s just rich that he purports to care about migrant children when the signature move during his Presidency was separating children from the families.

While in Las Vegas on June 8, Trump lied when he said, “100% of the new jobs under Biden have gone to illegal aliens … 100% of the new jobs have gone to illegal aliens.” The recycled this same  lie in the debate, adding they immigrants were elegy taking “black jobs.” While the racial division tactics are hard to miss, the notion that Trump’s policies of mass deportation and other harsh immigration crackdowns are good for working families is just plain false. Pro-immigrant policies are pro-worker policies. Immigrants, regardless of status, strengthen our economy, fill labor shortages, provide essential work in key industries, and help address inflation. Immigrants help build a bigger economy for all.   

Trump also kept up the drum beat on the white nationalist invasion rhetoric and tied it to his election lies, saying at the Vegas rally, “All we have to do is stop the steal, then we have it made, stop the steal.”  Echoing the rallying cry of Jan. 6. 

On June 18, in Racine, Wisconsin, Trump had several anti-immigrant rants, stating, “Think of it. You have people who come in illegally that don’t speak the language, we don’t even know the country — these are countries where nobody in our country that even understands the language.” Trump also falsely asserted that Biden is “going to formally grant a mass amnesty.” And the crowd chanted, “Send them back!” when Trump invoked deportation. And, once again, Trump employed Nazi logic with his false claims his mass deportation will lower inflation and reduce housing costs.

While on the tech podcast All-In, Trump said students graduating from U.S. colleges should get a green card to stay in the country. That is, of course, something business leaders want. But, Trump was barely out of the studio when his campaign shut it down, “President Trump has outlined the most aggressive vetting process in U.S. history, to exclude all communists, radical Islamists, Hamas supporters, America haters and public charges. He believes, only after such vetting has taken place, we ought to keep the most skilled graduates who can make significant contributions to America,” said the campaign. But not totally shutting down the bosses eager to please off the cuff remarks continued, “This would only apply to the most thoroughly vetted college graduates who would never undercut American wages or workers.”

Throughout the month, Trump picked his “migrant crime” lie back up once again, using the crimes committed by an individual to create a false association between immigration and crime. His language imputes violence at the entire immigrant population. On June 20, Greg Sargent wrote about Trump’s use of migrant killings, “Granular facts can only go so far here, of course, because Trump’s meta-messages are emotional and visceral: All undocumented migrants are violent and dangerous by definition. Biden wants to let all of them stay, and Trump would deport them all.”

On June 22 at the Faith and Freedom, Trump said he would round up millions of Latinos in mass detention camps if he is elected while hinting at the Project 2025 plan. He continued his further dehumanization of immigrants at the conference, with reports noting that “Trump then said that he had suggested to Dana White, an ally of the former president’s who is the chief executive of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, “Why don’t you set up a migrant league of fighters?”

He continued, referring to the U.F.C.: “And then you have the champion of your league — these are the greatest fighters in the world — fight the champion of the migrants? I think the migrant guy might win! That’s how tough they are.”

Late that same day  in Philadelphia, he told the crowd  about his great idea of a “new migrant fight League, only migrants.”

May 2024 Update: 

The  Republican presidential nominee closed out May as a convicted felon. On May 30, the Donald Trump was convicted of 34 felonies by a New York jury. While the former President ranted and raved about many topics in the press gaggles throughout the trial, bashing immigrants was a recurring theme. Throughout the month, the Trump campaign continued to add to the list of Nazi associations and continued to amplify white nationalist replacement theory rhetoric. Trump spent the month clarifying that unqualified mass deportation would deploy the military and deputize police to target 15 – 30 million people for roundups, detention, and deportation is the central promise animating his campaign. Trump’s nativist conspiracies infused with racism continued to flow while the aligned coalition supporting Trump is building an election denial pretext, using immigrants as the villain to socialize a justification for overturning election results that do not go Trump’s way. 

It’s an ugly list, but one we cannot afford to look away from. Here are the key lowlights from Trump in May 2024:

Trump’s Trial: 

  • Immediately following the verdict, Trump left the courthouse and launched into a rant that included, of course, an attack on immigrants, stating: “We don’t have the same country anymore. We have a divided mess. We’re a nation in decline, serious decline. Millions and millions of people pouring into our country right now.”
  • At the next day’s press conference, Trump jumped into another thinly disguised racist rant, saying:  “The Congo has just released a lot of people from jail – Congo, Africa – just released a lot of people, a lot of people, from their prisons and jails, and brought them into the United States of America.” Not that facts matter to Trump, but even by his standards, that rant had no basis in reality.  CNN’s fact-checker Daniel Dale did a deep dive concluding, “Trump’s claim is baseless.”

Trump’s Threats to Democracy: 

  • At the beginning of May, Trump conducted an interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel where he repeated the lie about the rigged nature of the 2020 elections, again downplayed the violent January 6th insurrection, and refused to pledge to accept the results of the 2024 election should he lose. In other words, he hit on part of his core stump speech. This rhetoric is as absurd as it is a direct threat to American democracy. And as we have repeatedly noted, tied to white nationalist replacement theory as Trump and the GOP combine the xenophobic lies and the lies about a stolen election into a toxic brew that threatens the confidence in elections as well as public safety. Like Republican allies on Capitol HIll, led by Speaker Mike Johnson, who spent much of May repeating lies about a nonexistent treat of non-citizen voting. In a Los Angeles Times column titled, “Our elections have integrity. These politicians do not,”: Jackie Calmes called out the GOP game,  “Policy isn’t the point, however; politics is. This gambit is a two-fer for firing up Republican voters: It plays to their anti-immigrant fervor and election fraud myths … ‘That is the design, I think, of why they opened the border,’ Johnson said on CNBC, mimicking Trump’s rally rhetoric. ‘To turn them into voters.’ That just ain’t so, and Johnson knows it — I give him that much credit. Noncitizens aren’t voting. U.S. elections aren’t rigged. Voter fraud is vanishingly rare. Republicans who tell you differently are lying. And we all know, intuitively, why.” Indeed, we do. They want to help Trump steal another election, this time by blaming immigrants.

Trump’s Violent and Bigoted Rhetoric : 

  • Later in May, Trump’s campaign again gave away their true intentions when the Associated Press reported,  “A video posted to Donald Trump’s account on his social media network included references to a ‘unified Reich’ among hypothetical news headlines if he wins the election in November.” Yes, as in, Hitler’s Third Reich. The former President and now candidate again has long engaged in far-right fringe conspiracy theories that were once the purview of neo-Nazi websites. Led by Trump, this extreme messaging has moved to the mainstream of the Republican Party.
  • At a rally in the South Bronx on May 24, Trump again ramped up his lies and anti-immigrant rhetoric. ABC News headlined their coverage,  Trump continues to demonize migrants, falsely claims they’re ‘building an army. The article included an excerpt: “They come from Africa. They come from Asia. They come from all over the world. They come from the Middle East, Yemen … Large numbers of people are coming in from China,” he said. “And if you look at these people, did you see them? They are physically fit. They’re 19 to 25. Almost everyone is a male, and they look like fighting age.” “I think they’re building an army … they want to get us from within,” he said.

Trump’s Mass Deportation Plan:

  • As New York Times columnist Jamelle Bouie wrote towards the end of May: “Trump’s signature promise, during the 2016 presidential election, was that he would build a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico. His signature promise, this time around, is that he’ll use his power as president to deport as many as 20 million people from the United States.” Trump Over the next six months, we will see the Republican nominee continue to riff and add cruelties and authoritarian elements to his central campaign pledge. Like repeatedly promising that he grant local police immunity from prosecution after he deputizes them as his mass deportation force. A plan that says to police that the president’s top priority is rounding up millions and that racist and violent practices should be of no concern. The severe implications of which are hard to overstate.   
  • Trump’s main campaign pledge isn’t his alone but is bein enthusiastically adopted by the one-time champions of common sense reforms like creating a pathway to citizenship for our undocumented neighbors. People like Senator Marco Rubio, who went from a vocal champion of reform to reaching for white nationalist rhetoric that describes immigrants as an invading force while calling for the absurd number of deporting 30 million people.  
  • “If Trump gets a second term in the White House he will not be so restrained.  Trump loyalists like Stephen Miller learned valuable lessons during Trump’s first term about how to rig and control the government,” wrote David Leopold – Chair, Immigration Group, UB Greensfelder, Former Biden-Harris Transition Team, and past President & General Counsel American Immigration Lawyers Association. “

So, it’s been quite a month for Donald Trump. He started by spewing falsehoods that allow him to blame immigrants when and if he loses in order to once again steal an election. He and his campaign spent the middle of the month embracing Nazi symbolism, “claimed immigrants were “building an army,” then he ended May with 34 felony convictions – but, again, with baseless and false claims that immigrants are the actual culprits.  “Never were these warnings more powerful (and chilling) than they are today. And, anyone who doesn’t think Trump, Miller and their allies don’t mean what they say is deluding themselves. A delusion the country cannot afford to indulge.  


April 2024 Update:

On the last day of April, TIME Magazine published a long interview with Trump, titled “If He Wins, that included a discussion about his immigration agenda and plans for mass deportation. TIME provided the full transcript that shows how Trump gives often garbled answers that, while not providing details or specifics, hits the main talking points we hear at his rallies: He will enact a mass deportation plan on day one. He will utilize the National Guard, local police, and, if necessary, the military. Trump cited Eisenhower as a model because “he did a massive deportation of people.” Importantly, Trump may not know details beyond the talking points, he knows what he wants. And he’s got a team, led by Stephen Miller, who will implement the agenda, unhindered by law, policy or humanity. The architects of Project 2025 will play a key role as well.

Currently, the Trump campaign and Project 2025 are currently two different entities with similar goals. But, in case there was any doubt they effectively operate as one, John McEntee, top adviser to Project 2025 who served as one of Trump’s top aides, recently said: “there will need to be coordination and the president and his team will announce an official transition this summer, and we’re gonna integrate a lot of our work with them. But I think keeping the two separate is actually the most beneficial way to go about it.”

And, that’s why it’s critically important to continue to monitor Trump’s talk about his potential next term, which will be backed up by the Heritage Foundation and its Project 2025 team. As we approach the 2024 election, it’s clear that Trump has a very detailed, specific anti-immigrant agenda. This time, it’s specific, thought out and backed up by Project 2025.

Trump started the month with campaign stops in Wisconsin and Michigan on April 2nd. While in Green Bay, the presumptive GOP nominee reiterated his vow to “begin the largest domestic deportation operation in American history” if he wins. Trump makes that vow in almost every speech, and it’s often overlooked in media coverage. He seeks to recruit National Guard and local enforcement as part of a “red state” deportation army, and some have made it clear they’re eager to join. This would be a significant escalation of the types of horrors that the nation witnessed under the Trump administration’s family separation policy. This could mean military door-to-door style roundups that would likely ensnare US citizens. It’s not an ancillary part of the Trump campaign but a key promise the campaign is highlighting.  

At a campaign stop in Grand Rapids, he again attacked immigrants as “animals,” continuing a trend going back to at least 2018. “The Democrats say, ‘Please don’t call them animals. They’re humans.’ I said, ‘No, they’re not humans, they’re not humans, they’re animals … Nancy Pelosi told me that. She said, ‘Please don’t use the word animals when you’re talking about these people.’ I said, ‘I’ll use the word animal because that’s what they are.’” The historical and scientific research clearly warns that this sort of animalistic dehumanization creates the climate for bigoted political violence and is a hallmark of authoritarian regimes. The official account of the Republican Party doubled down on their nominee’s dangerously bigoted rhetoric writing, “Calling illegal aliens who MURDER U.S. CITIZENS “animals” is an insult to animals.”

The theme of the midwestern battleground rallies was the roll-out of the Trump campaign slogan “Biden’s Border Bloodbath.” He said, “I stand before you today to declare that Joe Biden’s border bloodbath — and that’s what it is, it’s a bloodbath.” This gory violence provoking dehumanization was an escalation of Trump’s “migrant crime” disinformation. Worse, the Trump slogan was an effort to further dehumanize immigrants in a weak attempt to escape accountability for being called out for counting more anti-democratic poltical violence after claiming there would be a  “bloodbath” if he doesn’t win the election next November at a rally in Ohio two weeks earlier

To make his “bloodbath” point, Trump claimed to call the family of Ruby Garcia who was allegedly murdered by an undocumented man. But, according to her family, he didn’t. Instead he read a description from the New York Post. The family was outraged. 

Via NBC: “Garcia’s sister, Marvi, told NBC affiliate WOOD-TV, “He did not speak with any of us…So it’s kind of shocking seeing that he had said he had spoken with us … misinforming people on live TV.” Marvi also blasted Trump for politicizing her sister’s death, “It’s always been about illegal immigrants. Nobody really speaks about when Americans do heinous crimes.”

That’s exactly what Trump does. He’ll focus on any crime when the suspect is an immigrant because it fits his agenda. But, nary a word when there’s a mass shooting – or, he tells people to “get over it” Like he did in Iowa in January.

Later in the month, at a dinner with billionaire donors, Trump defended his earlier “shithole” country comments and lamented the arrival of non-white immigrants: “Why can’t we allow people to come in from nice countries, I’m trying to be nice. Nice countries, you know like Denmark, Switzerland? Do we have any people coming in from Denmark? How about Switzerland? How about Norway?” 

At the fundraising dinner, Trump, of course, ranted about migrants, particularly from Latin America, falsely claiming that many are gang members who “make the Hells Angels look like extremely nice people.’ He added, “They’ve been shipped in, brought in, deposited in our country, and they’re with us tonight.” Again and again, revealing the racism driving much of the candidate’s thinking. 

Absent from this discussion was any acknowledgment from Trump about his extensive record of hiring undocumented immigrants to work at his construction projects, golf clubs, and wineries. 

This month, Trump also hosted a press conference with Speaker Mike Johnson to promote legislation to prevent non-citizen voting, which is also prohibited. As NPR headlined, Republicans aim to stop noncitizen voting in federal elections. It’s already illegal

Importantly, the non-voting immigrants voting is a variant of the Great Replacement Theory and the continuation of Trump’s efforts to undermine voting. As I told the Palm Beach Post,: “This isn’t just about immigrants, or hate, or vitriol or demonization to immigrant communities,” he said. “What he is doing is taking immigrants as a vehicle to socialize a justification for undermining our democracy.” The more sinister effort is the one to undermine faith in the U.S. electoral system by whipping up immigration fear-mongering.

At a presidential debate in September of 2020, then-President Trump was asked whether he condemned white supremacists and military groups. In response, Trump said, “Proud Boys — stand back and stand by.” On January 6, 2021 several Proud Boy leaders actively engaged in the effort to block the peaceful transfer of power. For that, Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio and three others were convicted of seditious conspiracy and other charges. Tarrio is now serving a 22 year sentence in federal prison. Trump, of course, never disavowed the Proud Boys and, as we saw last week in North Carolina, they are still on the team. The Washington Post reported, “ At least 10 men wearing the uniform of the Proud Boys, a violent extremist group, appeared outside the entrance of a rally here for presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump, prompting condemnation from President Biden’s campaign….One of the men held a sign saying ‘Free All of the J6 Prisoners,’ a reference to people charged in the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.”  The Proud Boys have no compunctions about showing up at Trump rallies and the Trump campaign has no problem with them being there.

Coming out of court on April 25, Trump showed his continued embrace of white nationalists when he downplayed the magnitude of their deadly August 2017 Charlottesville rally, describing it as “peanuts.” Trump later doubled down on the “peanuts” description, ranting about the criticism on his social media platform. For many Americans, that rally and the chants of “You will not replace us. Jews will not replace us” was their first exposure to the Great Replacement Theory. In the wake of the violence and despite the blatant invocation of racism, xenophobia, and anti-semitism, the then-President said there were “very fine people on both sides.” Then, on April 30, again in the press scrum in the court, again minimized the deadly white nationalist rally as “peanuts,” calling his original “both sides” comments a “hoax,” then pivoting to bemoan the arrests of the violent Jan. 6 insurrectionists.     

Political Ads

  • MAGA Inc., a superPAC supporting Donald Trump that spent the past year attacking Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley,  is running an ad that invokes the MS-13 gang, featuring a decade-old photo that has appeared in numerous ads over the past few years. In fact, this image was taken nearly a decade ago (in 2013) in El Salvador, inside a prison surrounded by the military. We expect to see variations of this ad over the next seven months, with the same stock photo, as Trump and his allies make attacking immigrants their top issue.
  • MAGA Inc., is also running a voter depression ad targeting black voters in Georgia with anti-LGBT visual dog-whistles and xenophobic zero-sum attacks. The ad features a white woman pretending to be a Biden campaign volunteer telling a man over the phone, “Biden’s helping pay rent for newcomers to America from around the world.” The man on the phone with a clearly black-coded voice responds, “You mean illegal immigrants? I’m struggling to pay my bills, but Biden’s paying rent for illegals, they get handouts, and I’m paying for it.” This obvious disinformation is a form of strategic racism attempting to divide voters with coded racist ideas.   

Initial analysis published February 29, 2024

On February 29, Donald Trump’s 2024 campaign released a new ad that began with a statement he made when he first announced his campaign back in June of 2015, “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best.” Since then, Trump has transformed the Republican Party into a white nationalist entity that mirrors his racist, dangerous rhetoric about immigrants. 

As Donald Trump is all but the Republican Presidential nominee, it is worth taking a closer look at what he and his allies have promised to do on immigration if he wins a second term. 

One of the primary tenets of Donald Trump’s first term immigration agenda was cruelty to immigrants: From the Muslim ban to child separation, Trump and his team, led by white nationalist Stephen Miller, used their power to inflict harm on immigrants while undermining and chipping away at the few legal immigration channels that exist. Trump has promised to take his anti-immigrant and nativist assault to a new level of chaos and discrimination in a second term. He proudly and frequently invokes his plans for the “largest domestic deportation operation in American history” as he and his party, as well as right wing media have fully adopted conspiratorial white nationalist rhetoric.  

This is a frequent topic of conversation at Trump’s speeches and right-wing media interviews. 

At CPAC on February 23, Miller, who is Trump’s top immigration advisor, laid out their agenda: “The simple part is seal the border and deport all the illegals.” He also listed off several other items on their agenda. “Finish the wall; Remain in Mexico policy; … establish large-scale staging grounds for removal flights; deputize the National Guard; deploy the military to the southern border,” HuffPost’s Jennifer Bendery wrote.

There are probably some who roll their eyes, having heard this rhetoric from Trump and his crew before. Many believe they can survive a second term because they survived his first term. But, what’s very clear is that a potential Trump second term won’t be anything like the first time. The plans are already in place and it’s chilling.

What’s very different and why Trump and his team believe they’ll be more effective this time, were he to win, is that the Heritage Foundation and other right- wing organizations have crafted Project 2025, a 900 page document laying out their agenda. Project 2025 with detailed plans to enact Trump’s promises. 

Project 2025 has become the focal point in understanding headlines like “Sweeping Raids, Giant Camps and Mass Deportations: Inside Trump’s 2025 Immigration Plan” in the New York Times on November 11, 2023, and “Trump and allies planning militarized mass deportations and detention camps” in the Washington Post on February 21, 2024. These pieces offer a glimpse into the ambitious and controversial strategies shaping the future of immigration policy if Trump prevails.

As the Washington Post reported, “Trump has made similar promises and has used inflammatory smears since his 2016 campaign. But he, his aides, and allies say a second turn in office would be more effective in operating the levers of the federal bureaucracy and less vulnerable to internal resistance. During his term, former officials said, Trump learned to install more officials at the Department of Homeland Security who would carry out his orders instead of trying to curb his impulses.”

The Niskanen Center did a deep and thorough analysis of Project 2025, noting “It isn’t simply a refresh of first-term ideas, dusted off and ready to be re-implemented. Rather, it reflects a meticulously orchestrated, comprehensive plan to drive immigration levels to unprecedented lows and increase the federal government’s power to the states’ detriment. These proposals circumvent Congress and the courts and are specifically engineered to dismantle the foundations of our immigration system.”

The Niskanen Center identified the six of the “most troubling” aspects of the plan:

  1. Block federal financial aid for up to two-thirds of all American college students if their state permits certain immigrant groups, including Dreamers with legal status, to access in-state tuition.
  2. Terminate the legal status of 500,000 Dreamers by eliminating staff time for reviewing and processing renewal applications. 
  3. Use backlog numbers to trigger the automatic suspension of application intake for large categories of legal immigration.
  4. Suspend updates to the annual eligible country lists for H-2A and H-2B temporary worker visas, thereby excluding most populations from filling critical gaps in the agricultural, construction, hospitality, and forestry sectors.
  5. Bar U.S. citizens from qualifying for federal housing subsidies if they live with anyone who is not a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident.
  6. Force states to share driver’s licenses and taxpayer identification information with federal authorities or risk critical funding.

And, the section of Project 2025 dealing with many of the immigration issues was crafted by notoriously anti-immigrant Ken Cuccinelli, who was illegally installed to powerful positions at USCIS and DHS by the Trump administration.

In addition to the policy provisions outlined in Project 2025, Trump and Miller have vowed to stage mass deportations. FOX News’ Laura Ingraham asked Trump on February 20, “How do you plan to deport the millions of people that have come here, and how will it work?” He replied, “It’s gonna work that we get the bad ones out first.” When the FOX host asked, “How will you find them?” Trump said, “We’re gonna find them through local police.”

Writing in The Atlantic in an article titled, “Trump’s ‘Knock on the Door’: The former president and his aides are formulating plans to deport millions of migrants,” Ron Brownstein dove into the proposed deportation plans:

Stephen Miller, Trump’s top immigration adviser, has publicly declared that they would pursue such an enormous effort partly by creating a private red-state army under the president’s command. Miller says a reelected Trump intends to requisition National Guard troops from sympathetic Republican-controlled states and then deploy them into Democratic-run states whose governors refuse to cooperate with their deportation drive.

Miller’s plans for the national guard and Trump’s plan for local police seem far-fetched to some. But Jessica Pishko, who studies right-wing sheriffs and is writing a book on sheriffs and democracy, made an important point when Philip Bump tried to downplay Trump’s ability to put together a deportation force. “Sheriffs can summon anyone they want into their posse, no background check or certification required. Trump has been rallying sheriffs to his cause since 2016!” And many of them have been among his most ardent supporters.

There’s also a historical precedent for mass deportations from the Eisenhower administration:

… the military-style campaign, which used the same slur in its name — “Operation Wetback” — tore families apart and forcibly uprooted people in the name of securing the border, experts say. And sometimes, those efforts turned deadly.

Now, former president Donald Trump is using the Eisenhower-era operation as a blueprint for his vision, which he pledges will be “the largest domestic deportation operation in American history” to remove the estimated 10.5 million undocumented people in the United States — of whom two-thirds have lived in the country for more than a decade.

Writing at Just Security, Katherine Yon Ebright from the Brennan Center’s Liberty & National Security Program wrote about Trump’s potential invocation of the Alien Enemies Act to accomplish his deportation goals in a piece titled, “What Should Courts do if a Future President Invokes the Alien Enemies Act to Deport Immigrants?

Former President Donald Trump has promised voters that, if re-elected, he would “immediately” invoke the Alien Enemies Act to effect mass deportations of non-citizens from Mexico. He reportedly plans to apply the law broadly, targeting non‑citizens who are not suspected of any cartel involvement or narcotics trafficking. By using the Alien Enemies Act, a law enacted pursuant to Congress’s constitutional war powers, Trump could conduct the deportations summarily, without any of the hearings or other process typically accorded to non-citizens in peacetime and under immigration law.

As troubling as the prospect of mass, summary deportations may be, reactions to Trump’s proposed use of the Alien Enemies Act have in many cases underestimated the risk at hand.

Ebright examined the risks and the potential to prevent Trump’s use of the law were he to win from changing the law to courts blocking him. But, relying on the Federal Courts is risky, given the vast number of judges Trump appointed – and, of course, the six conservatives on the Supreme Court. 

In November of 2023, The New York Times reported that Trump’s team wants lawyers on board who won’t frustrate his ambitions if he gets another term:

The allies have been drawing up lists of lawyers they view as ideologically and temperamentally suited to serve in a second Trump administration. Their aim is to reduce the chances that politically appointed lawyers would frustrate a more radical White House agenda.

Trump and Miller’s anti-immigrant policies have continued to inflict harm even after leaving the White House. While most of the children separated under the family separation policy were reunited following a 2018 court order, hundreds remain separated due to the Trump administration’s sloppy record-keeping, rapid deportation of parents from the U.S., and general indifference to their suffering. Trump has refused to rule out reinstating this inhumane policy if he returns to power in 2025. While some Republicans condemned the policy at the height of the crisis in summer 2018, today, some have stated they want to see it return.

Georgetown University Professor Thomas Zimmer did a deep dive into Project 2025 at Democracy Americana, titled, “‘Project 2025’ Promises Revenge, Oppression, and Autocratic Rule.” He focused on the introduction to that report from Kevin Roberts, the president of the Heritage Foundation. Roberts noted, “Illegal immigration should be ended, not mitigated; the border sealed, not reprioritized.”

Mass deportations. Massive changes to the federal government. Inciting a climate of fear. Undermining legal immigration. That’s the plan and, this time, Trump, Miller, Cuccinelli and the Heritage Foundation are putting the pieces in place to achieve their goals. They mean it this time.