Is Donald Trump prepared to forcibly deport 11 million illegal immigrants? How would he go about doing that?
I have thought about it, and the challenges and costs of a mass deportation make me doubt that Donald Trump’s supporters have seriously imagined the logistics of uprooting 11 million people from their American lives and transporting them to a different country.
First, in order to begin processing this epic mass deportation, Trump would have to either coordinate a massive police force overhaul, create a new paramilitary group designed to deal specifically with immigration crime, or dramatically withdraw America’s global military presence by bringing troops home to do the deporting.
All three are dictatorially scary. The militarization of police with Iraq War-surplus is already controversial, and to expand police presence deeper into people’s daily lives will not go without further protests and loss of public trust.
For Trump to launch a brand new paramilitary group as a kind of Gestapo-esque, secret immigration police force is even scarier. America’s Constitution enshrines a strong judicial branch of government serving as a restraint on executive power, and processing 11 million immigration cases all at once would grind our court systems to a complete stop. Trump would have to create new courts specifically for immigration cases, and this would be a totalitarian fusion of executive and judicial power not unlike the Nazi SS.
Any deportation arrangement would terrorize Mexican-Americans whether they are legal or not—since any person of Hispanic descent would naturally look suspicious—and this route is probably something many Americans would not accept. Maybe Trump would ensure strict protocol and stringent rules for his paramilitary group, but the history of secret police forces around the world suggests otherwise. Trump’s proposals to wage war in violation of international law and to torture state enemies do not inspire confidence that he would either.
The third solution would be to bring the military home in order to, in effect, occupy America’s cities to carry out the deportations. Nothing exhibits “tyrannical dictator” like occupying one’s own country and exiling people who live there, but it would necessitate an historically unprecedented reversal of America’s foreign policy. The US currently operates nearly 800 military bases in more than 70 countries, and functionally serves as the world’s police state. How isolationist would Trump’s foreign policy have to become in order to focus so many resources on an epic, domestic deportation?
No matter which option Trump chooses, though, there are a lot of questions Trump supporters still need to consider. Like how long would the mass deportation take? Eleven million people is a lot of people. To deport them all is certainly a gargantuan task, though Trump spokeswoman Katrina Pierson “softened” Trump’s rhetoric a bit by admitting that maybe deporting ALL the illegal immigrants is not practical. Still though, we have to take Trump at his word.
Given that millions of America’s illegal immigrants have been living here for a decade or more, Trump supporters have to imagine that most of them will not simply turn themselves in for forced deportation. This means that a Trump Administration would have to slowly find them. Perhaps illegal immigrants will take to hiding from Trump’s secret police like Anne Frank (will best-selling memoirs of the future describe the moral stain on America’s record that Trump’s mass deportation will inevitably be?). A presidential term is only four years long, what if Trump can’t Make America White Again in only four or eight years?
And suppose some immigrants decide to fight back against Trump’s secret police. Might this force Trump’s police to be extra aggressive in their policing? If the potential danger in every immigration-related arrest escalates to the point that every interaction with Trump’s police becomes a potential life-or-death situation for both sides, would Trump’s police be provoked into maintaining an aggressively invasive presence in America’s cities? Is this the America that Trump supporters really want? It is definitely not a very conservative America, and it is even less the governmentally-small America that conservatives idealize.
If Trump somehow succeeds in rounding up all of America’s illegal immigrants, the transportation of them across the American border would certainly be an easier task. However, it won’t be cheap. Whether using trains (which would be terrible, Nazi-reminding public relations) or buses, there are substantial fuel and infrastructure costs. Trump’s police force would also have a hefty price tag accounting for recruitment, training, salaries, equipment, uniforms, and all the operating costs of a governmental administration. And don’t forget the wall—that’s going to be pretty costly as well.
The whole mass deportation business is ironic because Republicans usually oppose any kind of governmental expansion existentially — especially when it costs taxpayer money — but for Trump they are giving their blessing to a truly fascist and costly governmental expansion. Sadly, it is not intelligent fascism—which would normally try to strengthen the national economy—because the end of cheap, illegal immigrant labor would have drastically negative effects on America’s economy. Immigrants work a lot of jobs American citizens are not about to start doing, and for much lower wages than Americans would accept—particularly in the thankless industries of groundskeeping, cleaning, cooking, roofing, construction, and farming. Low prices on food in particular are a direct consequence of the exploitation of cheap immigrant labor. Trump supporters do not seem to have thought through the economic catastrophe that would result from the sudden exodus of 11 million people out of America’s economy.
The economic crisis will not just be on America’s side of the border. How do Trump supporters suppose Mexico will react if forced without consent to absorb 11 million displaced people? What if Mexico, a sovereign country, doesn’t agree to take these ex-American refugees? Donald Trump has promised to refuse Syrian refugees, what if Mexico similarly refuses to take America’s scapegoated immigrants? Would they be taken to some other country? What if it takes a long time to arrive at a diplomatic, international solution on what to do with the 11 million people Donald Trump doesn’t want? And what will Trump do with the Mexican immigrants while they wait in national limbo? Whatever he chooses, it will necessarily be expensive both financially and morally.
The only obvious aspect of Donald Trump’s deportation plan is that it is not conservative. Trump hijacked the party of governmental restraint and convinced racist conservatives to trash all their previous conservative principles in order to Make America White Again. Commentators across the world have already noted Trump’s political resemblance to Hitler, but, if Trump somehow gets elected and begins following through on his deportation promises, the Hitler comparisons will have only just begun.