Interesting times, methinks. We have Mr. Trump, per the Washington Examiner, vowing to rid the country of illegal immigrants by rounding them up, storing them in concentration camps, and deporting them at “millions per year.”
Saith Mr. Trump to the Conservative Political Action Conference, “Under my leadership, we will use all necessary state, local, federal, and military resources to carry out the largest domestic deportation operation in American history,” Trump told the CPAC audience Saturday. “We will pick them up, and we will throw them out of our country, and there will be no questions asked…The first reconciliation bill I will sign will be for a massive increase in border patrol and a colossal increase in the number of ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] deportation officers…Other countries are emptying out their prisons, insane asylums, and mental institutions and sending all of their problems right into their dumping ground.”
Wow. Can he do it, one wonders, or is he just grandstanding for his base? Will he try? Quite possibly, I will guess. Last time, he promised to build The Wall, gave it a truly heroic effort, and built some of it. How will this new promise go? How will it play with the electorate?
A preliminary question is how many illegals are in America? Counting them is difficult since they usually have no desire to be counted. Various statistical approaches exist, none conclusive, and all suspected of political bias. We will here assume a number between ten and twenty million, probably closer to fifteen. Deporting “millions a year” plural, means at least two million a year. If there are even twelve million illegals, this will take six years.
Now, the camps into which millions of illegals would be stuffed. Presumably the camps would be built on federal land, most likely out west, but I am only guessing. Could they be gotten through Congress and the Supreme Court? It doesn’t seem likely but maybe. They would be huge, expensive both to build and to operate, and require water, sewerage, and food. Physically possible certainly, but perhaps a hard political sell.
And a PR nightmare. The media would focus night after night on the lack of schools, the primitive conditions, etc. There would be comparisons with the Holocaust, despite the lack of resemblance. There would be strident allusions to the Japanese Americans interned during WWII. I don’t see how they could be forced through, but maybe.
Is Mr.Trump overguessing the popularity of massive deportations? Perhaps not. A lot of support exists for closing the border and, at least among those who haven’t thought carefully, for ejecting illegals. The angrier of Mr.Trump’s supporters will favor concentration camps. But would the moderately supportive? Closing the border is one thing, putting millions in camps another.
Worth pondering is how Congress would respond to Mr. Trump’s desired policies. We do not live in 1954. The at least sixty million Latinos wield votes, and Congress knows it. While many Latinos favor closing the border to avoid competition and political heat, deporting ten or fifteen million might not fly with them. Blacks? They are not fond of Latinos, but might think, “Latinos today and tomorrow, us.” This doesn’t make a lot of sense, but in racial politics making sense seldom matters.
Again, one certainty as sure as gravitation: The effort would be a media disaster. Nightly, over and over, nonstop, we would see the second-grade children of illegals dragged crying from school to be trucked off to the camps. They would be encouraged to sob theatrically for the cameras, though little encouragement would be needed. They would mostly be American citizens, unless Mr. Trump managed to end birthright citizenship retroactively. Ths would not be likely. There would be cases of the Mexican man married to the white wife, neither she nor the children being Mexican citizens. It would be a bloodbath by media opposed to Mr. Trump, the only kind of media there are.
To where will the two million a year be deported? Since they are almost all Latin Americans, we might presume that Latin America would get them. A fair prediction though is that no country of the region would want them. How do you force, say, Peru to accept large numbers of deportees who are not its citizens? The available approaches are economic sanctions or military force. Either might work for all I know.
Of course the most likely receptacle is Mexico. Deportees, Mexican citizens or not, could be forced across the border at bayonet point. Mexico would have no hope of resisting either the American military or economic pressure.
Mexico also has no capacity to absorb millions of refugees. The result would be a humanitarian disaster of starvation and shelterlessness. This would not distress Mr.Trump,. or he would not propose it. The same is true of Mr. Trump’s more ardent supporters. How the American public at large would react to the nightly network video of children crying for food is an open question. My guess, perhaps wrong, is that most Americans would not stand for it.
Among dedicated anti-immigrants, deporting the Dacans is a high priority. These are Latinos, mostly Mexican, who crossed into America illegally as children. They are now legal, being in the country with the knowledge and permission of the federal government. Mr. Trump wants to throw them out as criminals, though this embodies the curious notion that a baby in its mother’s arms can commit a federal crime. Ejecting them would be easier than in the case of illegals since they tend to have jobs and families and thus are easily found. Deporting them might work, though their employers and perhaps neighbors might object.
Rounding up two million illegals a year would make obvious an overarching problem with the whole program, which is that a great many Americans don’t want illegals deported. For example, many businesses, including hotels, restaurants, agriculture, and construction, depend on immigrant labor, much of it illegal. The owners of a construction firm out West once put it to me succinctly: Blacks are terrible workers, don’t show up, have bad attitudes, and do poor work. Whites don’t want the work at rates the company could pay. Illegal Mexicans show up, do good work, and appreciate the employment. The company, the owners told me, could not survive without them. Citrus growers in Florida tell the same story.
All of these businessmen, note, are Republicans.
The mechanics of the rounding-up seem problematic. The most obvious way I suppose would be to have the police surround an enterprise, such as a slaughterhouse, knowing that ninety percent of its workers are illegals. and carry them off in handcuffs. The slaughterhouse would then be in effect closed, losing lots of money, and the supermarkets not getting meat. Repeated over many industries, this would create a lot of moneyed blowback, mostly by Republicans.
Worth noting is that laws exist against hiring illegals and they carry heavy penalties. They simply are not enforced. A meat-packing company with several slaughterhouses might well be RICO bait. Nobody says anything.
Another approach I suppose would be for the Army or vastly expanded police forces to walk through Latino neighborhoods in the cities, grabbing people and demanding birth certificates or naturalization papers. People seldom carry these. Or cops could knock on doors and demand to search the house, ignoring the Constitution. Use of the military, threatened by Mr. Trump, is unconstitutional.
To judge by history many citizens, both Latino and white, would refuse to cooperate with the cops, or soldiers. In many regions, relations between immigrants and locals are not bad. The warehouse operator for whom illegal Pedro has worked for twelve years, and now runs the night shift, is unlikely to hand over a valued employee because some meddlesome bureaucrat demands it. Think California, which has more Latinos than whites, generally getting along well. The existence of “sanctuary” states and cities that protect illegals from deportation is another indicator of the non-universal support for ejection.
While Mr. Trump might say that there is nothing racial in his policies, that he is just enforcing the existing laws, it would instantly be seen as racial. Biden has done much to engender racial hostility between white and black, and Mr. Trump would create similar enmity between Latinos and whites. How this will promote the domestic tranquility is not clear.
I think the consequence of attempting to deport illegals on such a scale would be to throw the country into the worst crisis it has ever experienced without deporting much of anybody. Of course, I have noticed that what I think does not control the workings of the universe, doubtless a cosmic oversight of some sort. Still, it might be a good idea to think things through before undertaking them. Granted, this would be a break with tradition, but a little adventure spices up life.