Donald Trump's immigration plan: what exactly is he proposing and how would he do it?

The Republican candidate’s aggressive Arizona speech shows that his Mexican trip has not softened his stance on borders or deportation

David Usborne
New York
Thursday 01 September 2016 04:52
Donald Trump: There will be no amnesty

Donald Trump defied predictions that he would return from his surprise visit to Mexico yesterday to deliver a speech in Arizona later in the evening softening his stance on immigration, in hopes of mending fences with Hispanic and minority voters.

He executed something of a retreat by not proposing an immediate, single round up of all 11 million people living illegally, and ejecting them en masse, as he has in the past. But in all other respects it was the tough, fear-mongering Trump of old who showed up in Phoenix.

There were specific policy proposals, as his campaign had promised, arranged in a list of 10, although some of them seemed to overlap one another. But if it made an impact it was also because of its tone. Once more, Mr Trump drew a dystopian, nightmarish picture of a country that would dissolve into chaos and violence if his plans for border control are not enforced.

It was also an aggressive, sometimes fiery speech that repeatedly sought to demonise the entire community of undocumented residents in America by zeroing in on the few criminals among them. That included bringing to the stage a contingent of grieving parents whose children had perished at the hands of people who should not have been in the country.

His panoply of notions for a safer nation behind tighter borders may have thrilled his base – mostly white, non-college educated men – but surely did little to help the candidate broaden his base of support to include moderate Republicans and independents or Hispanics generally.

-That wall:

He vowed to build it and he said again that Mexico would pay for it. (In Mexico City he had claimed he and the Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto did not discuss how it would be paid for, but the latter later tweeted he had made clear Mexico would not foot the bill.) The wall would be tall and beautiful and would be equipped with above- and below-ground sensors. He spoke of tripling the number of US border patrol agents.

-Two million:

That is the number of illegal aliens he said are in the country who are criminals. They, he vowed, would be subject to deportation the first day that he is in office. “Day one, my first hour in office, those people are gone,” he said. He would create a “deportation task force” to make it happen.


He said there would be none of it for even those who have lived productively in the US and committed no crimes. The only path to becoming legalised, Mr Trump said, would be for every one of these people to return to their home countries and then apply under his new, strengthened system to come back in. “Anyone who has entered the United States illegally is subject to deportation,“ he said. ”There will be no amnesty.“

“Our message to the world will be this: you cannot obtain legal status or become a citizen of the United States by illegally entering our country. People will know you can't just smuggle in, hunker down and wait to be legalised,”

-If they simply stay?

That is the nub of the problem that has vexed politicians of both parties for years. He would not grant amnesty or a path to legal citizenship for those undocumented residents who are law abiding, but what would Trump then do about them? He confessed he didn’t know, saying he would address it once his broader border protection plan is in place.

-Ditch the DREAMers:

The most chilling part of the speech for younger Hispanics, many of whom are considered ‘DREAMers’, because they fall under Barack Obama's Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, which was designed to offer some protection to people who were brought into the US illegally by their parents but who have never known any other home. By executive order, Mr Obama temporarily sheltered them from the threat of deportation. Mr Trump said he would reverse the order.

-Sanctuary cities:

Mr Trump said he would withhold federal funds from those American cities that do not permit the authorities to try to identify and arrest people simply for being undocumented. But there is barely a large metropolis in America that would not fit into this category.

-Stop ‘catch and release’ :

This is not fishing. It’s what the border control sometimes do when they are overwhelmed with illegal aliens crossing the border. After some processing, some are let go. Not any more if Mr Trump is president, he said.

-Ideological testing:

He said a lot about the screening of would-be immigrants to the US. Among them, that they would have to earn “ideological certification” before being given a visa to make sure “that those we are are admitting our country share our values an love our people”. He added that this vetting would include getting questions right about honour killings, women, gay people and radical Islam.

-Country blacklist:

Once inaugurated, Trump would form a panel of experts to study which regions or countries in the world he would suspend immigration from, saying Syria and Libya would be high on his list. This is his variation on the original plan articulated last year to impose a ban on Muslims entering the country.

-Refugee ‘safe zones’:

Trump once more slammed Obama and Hillary Clinton for allowing Syrian refugees to settle in the US and proposed the building of ‘safe zones’ in the Middle East where, he claimed, there would be no assimilation problems for them, and would cost the US less.

-Welfare abuse:

While he did explain how strictly this would be applied, Mr Trump said anyone in the US illegally who was benefiting from welfare payments, including food stamps, would be “prioritised for immediate removal” from the country.

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