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Protecting migrants in the face of Trump’s threats of a “purge”

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Washington, DC – Below is a column by Maribel Hastings from America’s Voice en Español translated to English from Spanish. It ran in several Spanish-language media outlets earlier this week:

This May 1st, in an election year, reminded us of the importance of essential immigrant workers and how urgent it is that those who are undocumented obtain protection and work permits—in the midst of this poisonous political atmosphere in which we live, and could get even worse. Events organized across the country called on President Joe Biden to offer immigration relief in the face of congressional inaction, including to the undocumented spouses of 1.1 million U.S. citizens.

The situation is precarious, given the plans that the virtual Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump, is forging. The former president and his aides are chomping at the bit, hungrier than ever to implement their anti-immigrant menu, beginning with mass deportations. That is, if he is officially nominated and unseats Biden on November 5th. In an interview with Time magazine, Trump and his aides outlined their Machiavellian plans, emphasizing the border with Mexico. The author wrote, “To carry out a deportation operation designed to remove more than 11 million people from the country, Trump told me, he would be willing to build migrant detention camps and deploy the U.S. military, both at the border and inland.” 

“Trump says he plans to sign orders to reinstall many of the same policies from his first term, such as the Remain in Mexico program, which requires that non-Mexican asylum seekers be sent south of the border until their court dates, and Title 42, which allows border officials to expel migrants without letting them apply for asylum,” says the article.

About how to plan mass deportations, Trump told Time that “he would rely mostly on the National Guard to round up and remove undocumented migrants throughout the country.” 

“If they weren’t able to, then I’d use [other parts of] the military,” Trump added. “When I ask if that means he would override the Posse Comitatus Act — an 1878 law that prohibits the use of military force on civilians — Trump seems unmoved by the weight of the statute.” 

“Well, these aren’t civilians. These are people that aren’t legally in our country,” Trump affirmed. 

The warning of a purge of migrants, detention camps for undocumented people, and mass deportations are not simple threats by Trump. Their proponents have gone looking for legal loopholes that permit them to implement the plans without being stopped in the courts. 

In addition to what Time cited, the former president wants to cancel Temporary Protected Status, affecting 700,000 beneficiaries; reinstate Zero Tolerance; deny citizenship to children born in the United States to undocumented parents; and impose an ideological test on visa applicants. Many of these proposals are contained in the Heritage Foundation’s Project 2025, a roadmap on immigration and other topics for a potential Trump second term.

Neither Trump’s threats nor the claims of workers and their citizen and resident relatives can fall on deaf ears. It is said that those who do not know their history are condemned to repeat it, and many people in this country do not know their history. There have already been “purges,” like the one headed by Republican President Dwight (Ike) Eisenhower and his “Operation Wetback” in the 1950s, which removed more than a million Mexican people from the country, including U.S. citizens.

As more recent history has demonstrated as well, state laws that seek to prosecute and remove undocumented immigrants wind up violating the civil rights of citizens and residents in the process.

This is occurring at the same time various polls conclude that United States citizens support policies that balance border control with the legalization of undocumented people, especially those who have been living and working in this country for decades.

Because, on neither this May 1st nor any other, can we forget the vital role that all workers play — especially those who labor without a document that guarantees them that after a life in the United States, paying taxes, and having children and grandchildren who are U.S. citizens, they would not be put on a path to deportation, especially if Trump returns to the White House. 

The original Spanish version is here.