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Experts Warn of Potential Impact of Trump’s Immigration Plans on American Democracy and Economy


During his first administration, Donald Trump attempted major changes to the immigration system: separating families at the border, imposing a “Muslim Ban,” canceling Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Hondurans, ending Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) for Dreamers, and obstructing legal immigration and asylum processes. Most of these actions were reversed by the Biden administration.

However, if Trump is re-elected, his camp has even more ambitious plans: massive deportations and detention camps, freezes on legal immigration categories, and punitive measures against citizens and legal residents living with undocumented persons. A dedicated team is poised to implement these radical reforms.

At a press briefing by Ethnic Media Services, experts analyzed a detailed plan, hundreds of pages long, by the Heritage Foundation. Cecilia Esterline, an Immigration Research Analyst at the Niskanen Center, expressed concerns about Project 2025, a comprehensive policy blueprint for the next Republican administration. Esterline highlighted over 175 proposed changes to immigration policy, arguing that many do not align with public expectations for a secure and effective immigration system.

“Project 2025’s policies appeal to a very narrow group of people whose political goals ignore the implications for small businesses and American citizens,” Esterline said. She warned that these policies could disrupt the balance of power between states and the federal government and undermine national security.

One significant proposal in Project 2025 is to halt updates to the list of eligible countries for H-2A and H-2B visas, crucial for industries like agriculture and hospitality. “This would bring these programs to a standstill, severely impacting sectors dependent on seasonal labor,” Esterline explained. The project also suggests arbitrary standards to eliminate immigration categories with “excessive” backlogs, which could exacerbate delays and prevent businesses from securing necessary labor.

Esterline also criticized plans to require every visa approval to pass through a secondary office, potentially creating further backlogs. Additionally, Project 2025 directs the Department of Education to deny loan access to students at institutions offering in-state tuition to undocumented or DACA students. “If enacted, up to 67% of American college and graduate students could lose access to federal financial aid,” Esterline warned.

“These policies abandon traditional conservative values like supporting business growth, decentralizing power from the federal government, and decreasing bureaucratic hurdles,” Esterline concluded. Despite their narrow support, she stressed the importance of taking these proposals seriously given the significant policy changes implemented by the previous administration.

David J. Bier, Director of Immigration Studies at the Cato Institute, discussed potential immigration policies of a second Trump administration. Bier highlighted that many of Trump’s previous controversial measures are likely to reemerge, with some adjustments.

Bier predicted that Trump would likely reintroduce a broader security ban, similar to the previous “Muslim Ban,” possibly encompassing a larger group of countries, including Venezuela, under the pretext of inadequate vetting. He also warned that the cap on refugees could be drastically lowered again, disrupting the Biden administration’s current goal of admitting over 100,000 refugees annually.

Programs that allowed entry for Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans, and Venezuelans under parole sponsorship would likely be curtailed, along with the CBP One app that facilitates lawful entry at the Southwest border. Bier expressed concern that these changes might lead to an increase in illegal border crossings, following a pattern similar to 2017.

Enforcement tactics could shift towards increased detentions and removals, though Bier noted logistical challenges such as the shortage of detention beds. He also highlighted potential unconstitutional actions, like using the military for immigration enforcement, which could face significant legal challenges.

The discussion also touched on birthright citizenship, a policy Trump previously suggested eliminating via executive order. Bier was skeptical about the feasibility of such a move, citing legal and constitutional barriers.

Zachary Mueller, Senior Research Director for America’s Voice Education Fund, shared his concerns about Trump’s immigration policies and their implications for the 2024 election. Mueller underscored that Trump’s agenda poses three primary threats: mass deportation, political violence, and a broader danger to American democracy.

“Trump’s immigration agenda presents significant threats in the form of mass deportation, political violence, and a threat to American democracy,” Mueller stated. He explained that Trump’s proposals include deploying red-state National Guard troops into blue states, deputizing local police with immunity from prosecution, and even conducting full-scale military operations on U.S. soil to round up and deport 15 to 30 million people—a figure Mueller emphasized is “wildly inaccurate” and indicative of the administration’s extreme stance.

Mueller pointed out the administrative plans being developed under Project 2025, led by Trump’s allies like Stephen Miller and Ken Cuccinelli, who are preparing detailed proposals to implement these policies. “What we’ve seen and what we’re concerned about is that folks like Miller, Cuccinelli, and many others are going to suggest policies to overcome pesky legal laws on the books,” he said, noting their use of the Insurrection Act and other measures to justify their actions.

Another critical issue Mueller highlighted is the use of white nationalist conspiracy theories, such as the “replacement theory,” which he argued has become mainstream within Republican rhetoric. “The language of invasion and replacement has now become the mainstream of the immigration talking points from Republicans this cycle,” Mueller said, connecting this rhetoric to an increased threat of domestic terrorism and the undermining of democratic institutions.

Mueller stressed that the potential consequences of Trump’s immigration policies extend beyond the undocumented population. He cited an estimate that over 4.4 million U.S. citizen children could be affected if Trump’s mass deportation plans are enacted. “The havoc wrought by this plan will not be contained to those who lack legal status,” he warned.

Mueller called for vigilance against the broader implications of Trump’s immigration agenda, not just for immigrant communities but for American democracy and public safety as a whole. “It’s important to keep these threats in mind as we move forward,” he urged, “that it’s not just about the individual policies or the immigrant community alone, but this is a much broader concern that is being put forward.”

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