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Trump and immigration: constructing a police-state America

Lee A. Daniels

At bottom, the plan of Donald Trump, the GOP’s political playboy, to “solve” America’s crisis of undocumented Latino immigration is really quite simple: Turn the US into a police state.

Of course, Trump and his supporters, and the rest of the GOP presidency-seekers who are following, sheep-like, in his wake on the issue, don’t put it that plainly.

In part, that’s because none of them are serious about implementing a deport-them-all scheme. Even numerous conservative analysts and pundits have said that any such effort would necessarily have to last for decades and cost hundreds of billions of dollars. Trump, buoyed by his mob of rabid supporters, is hustling the GOP, and most of the rest of the GOP candidates are falling for it hook, line and sinker.

This is so even as the August 12 Gallup survey shows 65 percent of Americans support a plan that would allow undocumented immigrants to become citizens if they follow certain “path to citizenship” rules. That includes 50 percent of Republicans. Only 19 percent of Americans favor a mass deportation plan.

Nonetheless, it’s vitally important to consider what a mass-deportation scheme would require — and do to the concept of democracy in America. After all, America does have a long history of using racist reasoning and anti-democratic tactics to violate the rights of black Americans, Asian Americans, Native Americans and Hispanic Americans. Trump and his cowardly acolytes among the GOP also-rans have dredged up that racist “wish” from the cesspool of American history, even to the point of claiming children born in the US to undocumented immigrants don’t deserve the automatic citizenship conferred on them by the birthright citizenship clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Exploring the questions buried in Trump’s proposal also underscores how much “skin” black Americans have in this game, too. The reason is that a mass-deportation scheme would in part require determining at the street level who is and is not Hispanic, and then demanding to see legal proof of citizenship. That people of Hispanic descent are “brown” and “black” as well as “white” and café au lait would require, then, a wholesale racial profiling of not only Hispanic Americans but also US-born blacks and black legal immigrants from Africa and the Caribbean. All these “colored” Americans would have to have their citizenship papers on them at all times.

Another of the scheme’s management issues concerns the logistics to be used to raid businesses — from corporations to neighborhood stores to farms to small construction and landscape-gardening firms to colleges and universities — to hunt for undocumented immigrants. Ditto for homes and apartment buildings and schools, especially in neighborhoods heavily populated by Latinos.

Where would the undocumented immigrants who are caught be jailed while awaiting deportation? Our current prisons already are at maximum capacity. So, does that mean re-opening the World War II-era concentration camps used to imprison 120,000 Japanese-Americans and Japanese nationals? Would that aspect of it be turned over to the private “incarceration business” companies that have made billions, becoming an integral part of the nation’s prison-industrial complex?

Then, there are the questions of the cost: of hiring the street-level enforcement officers; guards for the concentration camps; construction of new camps; and the unavoidable substantial expansion of the federal immigration bureaucracy. The most important cost of all would be that for the vast force of undercover government agents, informants and bounty hunters essential to overcome the popular rebellion a mass deportation plan would bring into being. The government would need reliable ways of finding the “safe houses,” church sanctuaries, and underground-railroad routes many Americans would establish or fund to hide undocumented immigrants.

As I said, it’s worth dragging these and other “management” issues of a mass-deportation scheme into the light in order to see that its most damaging cost would be the complete collapse of American democracy. That several of the GOP presidency-seekers are now on record supporting it is one more indication of how un-American the GOP has become.

Lee A. Daniels is a columnist for the National Newspaper Publishers Association. His latest collection of columns, Race Forward: Facing America’s Racial Divide in 2014, is available at

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