Donald Trump’s deportation machine is already in place. It just needs to be turned on.
The Trump administration is almost certainly going to be more aggressive in arresting and deporting unauthorized immigrants than any presidency has ever been.It’s something Trump’s people want to spend political capital doing. Immigration enforcement makes up a big component of the administration’s plan for its first 100 days. It’s hired Kris Kobach — who’s come up with proposals including the “show me your papers” state laws Arizona and other states have tried to pass and an interstate compact to give special birth certificates to US-born children of unauthorized immigrants so a future federal government could strip them of citizenship — to its transition team.
But it doesn’t even need to do anything that creative or unprecedented.
Even if every single Trump administration proposal to change immigration law or policy somehow gets blocked (which, given the amount of authority the executive branch has over immigration, is unlikely), it could still do more to go after unauthorized immigrants than anyone’s ever done before.
Donald Trump doesn’t have to implement any unprecedented immigration policy to create an unprecedented immigration *regime. *He could just use the precedents the last two presidents created for him.
Both the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations created powerful tools for apprehending and deporting immigrants. It’s just that no one’s ever used them together.
The Obama administration was already more aggressive about immigration enforcement than many people realize. Obama set deportation records during his first term, deporting 400,000 people a year. Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents had relatively free rein to catch and deport immigrants — and easy access to local jails to pick up immigrants who’d come in contact with local police. Many of those deported were labeled “criminals” because they’d been pulled over for broken taillights or arrested for minor offenses like selling illegal phone cards.
Trump could bolster the impact of Obama’s efficient deportation machine by bringing back tactics from the Bush era — workplace and neighborhood raids and roving “task forces” of local police officers. And by rejecting Obama’s policy of setting “priorities” for which immigrants to deport, he could restore the Bush administration’s ability to make every unauthorized immigrant in the US feel equally targeted — and equally at risk of deportation at any time.