Trump wants to round up more than a million undocumented migrants from California. Here’s how he might do it


Trump wants to round up more than a million undocumented migrants from California. Here’s how he might do it

Election 2024

Doyle McManus

March 25, 2024

Former President Trump has relentlessly focused on illegal immigration as the centerpiece of his campaign for the White House, just as he did when he first campaigned in 2016.

“They are poisoning the blood of our country,” he has said of undocumented migrants, in language reminiscent of Adolf Hitler’s racist doctrines.

He promises to launch “the largest domestic deportation campaign in American history” on day one of his new presidency.

His top immigration adviser, Santa Monica native Stephen Miller, has laid out what that would mean: Trump would assemble a massive force, including National Guard troops, to arrest undocumented migrants, transport them to camps in Texas and deport them. expel.

“A very conservative estimate would be about 10 million,” Miller told pro-Trump talk show host Charlie Kirk.

If unfriendly states like California don’t want to cooperate, Miller said, Trump could order Guard units from red states like Texas to cross their borders to enforce the law.

The operation would be as daring and ambitious as the construction of the Panama Canal, Miller promised.

That’s a pretty bloodless way to describe a process that would uproot thousands of families, separate children from their parents and disrupt communities. But before we get into that, a preliminary question:

If he wins in November,

could be

Does Trump really do that?

From a legal perspective, the answer is yes.

If Trump invokes the Insurrection Act and declares that the National Guard is needed to enforce federal immigration law, he could send Texas troops to California if the administration wants. Gavin Newsom may or may not agree, legal experts say.

Normally we don’t want the military to enforce the law in the country; Law enforcement should be provided by police departments that are locally and locally responsible, said William Banks, professor emeritus of law at Syracuse University. But the Insurrection Act gives the president far-reaching powers. You could drive a lot of trucks through that law.

Newsom would likely file a lawsuit against Trump to try to block the move, but that would almost certainly fail.

No state has ever successfully sued to block the Guard’s deployment under the Insurrection Act, warned Joseph Nunn of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University.

There are also practical concerns. Most National Guard units are not trained or equipped for law enforcement missions.

Tracking down undocumented migrants is complicated and time-consuming, Nunn noted. You need people who know how to do it, like ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] agents.

The Guard would strongly oppose those types of missions, Banks added. They hate this kind of thing. They would be better suited to patrol the border and stand next to the wall, fence or river and discourage people from crossing the border.

So if Trump listens to his generals, it is not certain that he will be more likely to use Guard units to fortify weak spots on the border and manage the newly built transit camps for deportees.

That would free up ICE agents to raid Central Valley farms and Los Angeles sweatshops, which is what immigration agents did in previous crackdowns, including the offensively named Operation Wetback, which expelled more than a million Mexican migrants (and some U.S. citizens) in 1954.

So legally speaking, California may not be able to do much. But the consequences in a statehouse for an estimated 1.9 million undocumented immigrants, about 5% of the population, are difficult to imagine.

The human impact of uprooting most or all of these California residents would be enormous. Many undocumented immigrants are members of families that include legal residents and U.S. citizens, including children.

Many are deeply rooted in their communities; According to one estimate, more than two-thirds have lived in the state for more than ten years.

“When you harm undocumented immigrants, you harm American citizens,” said Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights in Los Angeles.

I have seen families devastated by the deportation of their loved ones. I have seen families who, when the father is deported, are thrown straight into economic ruin, Salas said. ‘The trauma for children, especially small children, is enormous.

The economic impact of mass deportations would also be enormous. An estimated 1.5 million workers in California, more than 7% of the U.S. workforce, are undocumented. About half work in agriculture, construction, catering and retail, sectors that are already facing serious labor shortages.

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome H. Powell said this month that growth in the number of immigrants in the labor force is increasing

[note: he did not specify legal vs illegal immigration here]

had strengthened economic growth. It’s just arithmetic, said Powell, a Trump appointee. If you add a few million people to an economy, there will be more production. Abruptly subtracting a million or more would have the opposite effect.

Trump advisers have no plans to stop removing undocumented immigrants from the country.

Miller also wants to legally go after some people in the country.

He has proposed expanding the criteria for deportation to include people with valid visas whose views, attitudes and beliefs make them ineligible to stay in the eyes of the new Trump administration.

The obvious example here is all the Hamas supporters gathering across the country, he said.

An immigration task force organized by the conservative Heritage Foundation and led by a former Trump administration official proposed blocking Federal Emergency Management Agency grants to state and local agencies that refuse to cooperate with ICE enforcement operations, a standard that would likely disqualify most or all California agencies. .

The task force also proposed denying federal loans and grants to students at universities that allow undocumented immigrants to pay tuition, a rule that would affect the UC and Cal State systems.

It amounts to a recipe for a major clash with California, the state most out of step with Trump’s determination to rid the country of undocumented immigrants.

None of this is a defense of the Biden administration’s policies, which have failed to deter thousands of migrants from crossing the border and seeking asylum on often dubious grounds.

But it’s worth remembering that just a few weeks ago, Trump told Republicans in Congress to scrap a bipartisan bill that would have increased funding for immigration enforcement and raised the bar for asylum claims, because, as he admitted, the president did not want to allow Biden to give the impression that he was solving the problem.

When Trump was first elected in 2016, I wrote that on immigration policy, his bark could prove worse than his bite.

I was wrong. He turned out to be deadly serious.

Trump’s promises of mass deportations and detention camps should also be taken seriously and literally.

“If he says he’s going to do it, believe him,” Salas said.


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