Let the panic over Donald Trump’s immigration policy begin.
The New York Times ran a piece the other day headlined “Sweeping Raids, Giant Camps and Mass Deportations: Inside Trump’s 2025 Immigration Plans.”
The reaction has been shock and outrage.
MSNBC’s Steve Benen wrote that “Trump envisions a governing model in which the government actually rounds up people and puts them in camps.”
The progressive publication Mother Jones called the immigration policy “the latest detailed authoritarian blueprint to emerge from within the indicted former president’s brain trust.”
It is certainly true what Trump envisions is sweepingly ambitious to the point of impracticality. The context matters, though.
Trump is formulating his plans at a time when we’re experiencing a crisis at the border and witnessing an unprecedented surge of illegal immigrants into the country because the Biden administration refuses to enforce the law.
What’s the proper response here?
To trim the sails of President Biden’s policy but largely accept it as the new status quo, even though no one in the mainstream would have considered it tolerable a few short years ago?
The scale and urgency of Trump’s plans are appropriate to the moment.
The phrase “mass deportations” is one that gets people’s attention (The New York Times headline alone will deter new arrivals, at least initially, if Trump takes office again).
But we’ve now had years of “mass illegal arrivals.”
According to the Center for Immigration Studies, roughly 2.6 million illegal aliens have been released into the country since January 2021 and another 1.5 million “gotaways.”
That’s 4 million people. No one voted to bring them here, and they aren’t so-called Dreamers — they don’t have longstanding ties to their communities.
If they don’t have legitimate asylum claims or some other legal standing, what right do they have to stay?
Trump wants to use federal officers to round them up and hold them in temporary facilities on the border until they can be deported.
This is “authoritarian” only from the perspective of total ignorance of US law, which requires illegal aliens to be detained until removal.
It is Biden who is the lawless executive defying black-and-white federal statue.
Regardless, as a practical matter, sending several thousand federal agents out to apprehend 4 million people in a vast country is not going to be easy.
Among other things, the political resistance will be fierce.
The very same blue cities that think it’s been terrible they’ve been made to accept so many illegal immigrants will turn around, if Trump is elected, and say it’s terrible they’re being made to go home.
Still, if there are high-profile deportation operations, it will persuade some people to leave voluntarily and some not to try to come.
A more sustainable approach would be to use existing authorities to require the illegal aliens to register with the government or face a legal penalty; this would likely create an incentive for many to leave on their own power.
An e-verify system mandating that employers ascertain the legal status of their employees would also remove the jobs magnet for illegal immigration.
As for the border itself, the balance of the Trump agenda is to restore policies that were working, especially Remain in Mexico, at keeping bogus asylum seekers out of the country.
Biden ripped these policies up for no good reason, and communities around the country have reaped the consequences.
There’s much more Trump wants to do in a frenzy of actions — some indeed vulnerable to legal challenge — meant to confuse the opposition.
But moving on too many fronts is as likely to lead to mistakes and setbacks that undermine the overall goal.
The focus should be on regaining control of the border and reestablishing interior enforcement to persuade more illegal immigrants to leave and not risk the journey to the border.
That would constitute a resumption of what should be considered the norm in immigration policy after years of Biden’s malign neglect.