By Eric London
Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump delivered a major policy address on immigration Wednesday in which he laid out a ten-point plan to forcibly deport millions of undocumented immigrant workers currently living in the US. Trump spoke in Phoenix, Arizona hours after returning from a visit with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto in Mexico City.
“For those here illegally today, who are seeking legal status, they will have one route and one route only. To return home and apply for reentry,” Trump said, adding: “All energies of the federal government and the legislative process must now be focused on immigration security. That is the only conversation we should be having at this time, immigration security. Cut it off.”
Following the speech in Arizona and press reports from Trump’s visit to Mexico, the New York Times wrote that Trump’s positions on immigration are “muddled” and are “left unclear.” According to the Times, Trump “said that the fate of most illegal immigrants would be handled humanely, and not right away,” and that Trump is moving “away from his original deportation-focused policy on immigration…”
In reality, Trump’s speech elaborated a fascistic ten-point plan involving mass deportation and martial law.
He repeated his calls for building a border wall stretching from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico: “We will use the best technology, including above and below ground sensors that’s the tunnels [sic]…Towers, aerial surveillance and manpower to supplement the wall…”
He called for an absolute bar on granting entry to any immigrant with a criminal record, including those convicted of the “crime” of entering the US without inspection and those with minor crimes like driving under the influence. All those with criminal records would be immediately rounded up on “day one” of a Trump administration, and this would be done “in joint operation with local, state, and federal law enforcement.” Trump then said that immigrants arrested for any crime—not convicted—would be immediately placed into removal proceedings. Further, Trump called for “strong” mandatory minimum sentences for those migrants who attempt to reenter the country without papers after a prior deportation.
To enforce the mass round-up of millions of undocumented workers, Trump called for a drastic expansion of police and immigration agencies. He called for the creation of “a new special deportation task force” within Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) aimed at speeding up deportations, and called for granting local police the power to hand over arrestees to immigration authorities: “Finally we will turn the tables and law enforcement and our police will be allowed to clear up this dangerous and threatening mess,” he said.
Trump also called for immediately canceling the DACA program which has allowed several million young undocumented people who were raised in the United States to remain in the US on a temporary basis. He also proposed suspending visa issuance from “any place where adequate screening cannot occur,” and called for “screening tests” with “an ideological certification to make sure that those we are admitting to our country share our values and love our people.” Finally, Trump called for preventing undocumented workers from receiving food stamps, subsidized medical care, public education or any other social services.
Trump combines his proposal with a fascistic demagogic appeal to American “workers” in an attempt to pit them against their class brothers and sisters who have immigrated from Latin America and elsewhere on the planet. Trump claimed that the purpose of his program is “to serve the best interests of America and its workers, the forgotten people. Workers. We’re going to take care of our workers.” He added: “Under a Trump administration it’s called America first. Remember that.”
But Trump’s speech is a dire warning to the working class of all national backgrounds.
The imposition of Trump’s plan would require a mass mobilization of hundreds of thousands of police, FBI, ICE, and military personnel in every major American city. Working class neighborhoods would be placed on lockdown and militarized detachments would forcibly take immigrants from their homes and places of work. Entire cities like Los Angeles, San Jose, San Diego, Chicago, Dallas, Phoenix, Miami, and Tucson would be placed under martial law. If such efforts are met with any resistance, violent government crackdowns would follow.
Due to insufficient space in existing immigrant detention facilities, immigrants would have to be held en masse in impromptu concentration camps before being deported. Though immigrants are legally entitled to a short trial before removal, the government would likely do away with this right or undercut it substantially. After those with criminal records are removed in this way, those remaining 10 million immigrants who refuse to leave the country voluntarily would be rounded up next. Those caught attempting to bypass the newly constructed wall would be arrested or possibly shot by drone or sentry.
Trump’s proposal represents a further escalation of anti-immigrant policies already put in place by the Obama administration, which have resulted in over 2.5 million deportations. Trump himself said in mid-August that he is “going to do the same thing” as Obama, but “with a lot more energy.” Applicants for US citizenship must already swear they are not communists and that they do not advocate the overthrow of the US government. The Obama administration has deported tens of thousands of immigrant children, added thousands of border patrol agents and spent billions building sections of border wall with advanced surveillance and weapons technology.
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton feigned opposition to Trump’s speech, but she has no fundamental differences with the Republican candidate’s proposals. In 2006, then-Senator Clinton voted for the Secure Fence Act of 2006, which called for the building of 700 miles of border wall across parts of California, New Mexico, and Texas, at a cost of $7 billion. In 2003, she told WABC radio in New York that “I am, you know, adamantly against illegal immigrants.”
Speaking on the same radio program, Clinton said: “People have to stop employing illegal immigrants. I mean, come up to Westchester, go to Suffolk and Nassau counties, stand on the street corners in Brooklyn or the Bronx. You’re going to see loads of people waiting to get picked up to go do yard work and construction work and domestic work.”
In 2005, Clinton said: “I am adamantly against illegal immigrants…let’s have a system that keeps track of them.” During the 2008 presidential primaries, Clinton opposed letting undocumented workers possess driver’s licenses, saying “As president, I will not support driver’s licenses for undocumented people.” In 2007, she said: “I do favor much more border patrolling and much more technology on both of our borders, even a physical barrier because I think we’ve got to secure our borders.”
In 2015, Clinton boasted: “I voted numerous times when I was a senator to spend money to build a barrier to try to prevent illegal immigrants from coming in, and I do think that you have to control your borders.”
Clinton’s anti-immigrant record is so long-established that right-wing xenophobe Pat Buchanan once praised Clinton for her “forthrightness” on immigration, noting that she “makes [George W.] Bush sound like a talking head for La Raza.”