Using rhetoric that echoes Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini, former president Donald Trump is preparing for a possible second term by plotting to separate millions of families from each other, in what would be the single greatest crackdown on civil rights in decades.
Trump and a top aide are preparing to round up millions of undocumented immigrants, detain them in internment camps, and deport them en masse, all while unleashing the powers of the federal government to target and even imprison his political opponents, whom he’s called “vermin.”
Together, Trump’s plans and rhetoric suggest a second term would represent one of the darkest chapters of American life—one that looks increasingly likely as polls show Trump in a toss-up race with President Joe Biden.
Trump’s proposed immigration agenda and his use of dehumanizing rhetoric represents the latest examples of his increasingly violent rhetoric and reckless behavior. In the past several months alone, the former president has called for the execution of a US military official, mocked the assault of an 83-year-old man, repeatedly used rhetoric that echoes that of Nazi Germany, and verbally attacked prosecutors and judges.
In March, addressing the Conservative Political Action Conference, framed the 2024 election as “the final battle” for America and told his supporters: “I am your retribution.”
Here’s what you need to know about Trump’s latest actions and speeches:
Trump Wants to Put Millions of Immigrants in Internment Camps and Deport Them
As extreme as Donald Trump’s first term was on the issue of immigration, when his administration separated thousands of children from their families, he and his advisors are gleefully preparing to double down on the cruelty in a potential second term.
According to new reporting from the New York Times, the former president is planning to “round up” undocumented immigrants already in the United States and detain them in sprawling detention camps, a move that has drawn comparisons to World War II-era internment camps. If Congress refuses to appropriate the necessary funds to enact his mass imprisonment of immigrants, Trump plans to redirect money in the military budget to cover the cost.
The proposal drew swift criticism from Biden campaign spokesperson Ammar Moussa.
“This is the horrifying reality that awaits the American people if Donald Trump is allowed anywhere near the Oval Office again,” Moussa said in a statement. “These extreme, racist, cruel policies dreamed up by him and his henchman Stephen Miller are meant to stoke fear and divide us, betting a scared and divided nation is how he wins this election. Trump talks openly about his plans at rallies, and voters should take him at his word.”
Trump also wants to restrict all forms of immigration in a number of ways. He plans to revive his first-term border policies, which included banning entry by people from certain Muslim-majority nations and reimposing a COVID-19 era policy of refusing asylum claims. This time, however, he plans to base his asylum ban on xenophobic claims that migrants carry other infectious diseases, such as tuberculosis.
Trump also plans to deport undocumented immigrants by the millions per year, a move that would rip millions of families apart from each other and have devastating impacts on communities and the economy. In order to speed up these mass deportations, the former president plans to expand a form of removal that does not require due process hearings. And in order to help Immigration and Customs Enforcement carry out these sweeping raids, Trump plans to reassign certain federal agents as well as members of the National Guard and local police officers.
Trump furthermore plans to cancel the visas of foreign students who participated in anti-Israel or pro-Palestinian protests. He would further reportedly direct US consular officials abroad to expand ideological screening of visa applicants to block people his administration considers to have “undesirable attitudes.”
Additionally, immigrants who were granted temporary protected status allowing them to live and work in the US would have that status revoked. Other immigrants who’ve been allowed to live in the country due to humanitarian reasons, such as the tens of thousands of Afghans who were evacuated amid the 2021 Taliban takeover, would also have that status revoked.
Afghans who hold special visas due to their past work helping US forces during the evacuation would be revetted to confirm their service, a process that could lead to their deportations back to Afghanistan and potentially their deaths.
Finally, Trump plans to attempt to end birthright citizenship for babies born in the US to undocumented immigrants, a move that is almost certainly unconstitutional. Trump aims to do this by ordering agencies to cease issuing citizenship-affirming documents like Social Security cards and passports to them.
The New York Times notes that all of these proposed actions are “virtually certain” to end up before the right-wing Supreme Court, but they could nonetheless destroy countless lives—a fact that one of Trump’s closest advisors seems to take great pride in.
“Any activists who doubt President Trump’s resolve in the slightest are making a drastic error: Trump will unleash the vast arsenal of federal powers to implement the most spectacular migration crackdown,” Stephen Miller, one of Trump’s first-term immigration advisors who is expected to serve in a senior role in a second administration, told the Times. “The immigration legal activists won’t know what’s happening.”
Trump Uses Hitler and Mussolini-Like Rhetoric
The scope of Trump’s mass detention and deportation plan underscores just how extreme a second Trump term would be. So too does his recent rhetoric, which echoes that used by Adolf Hitler and Italian dictator Benito Mussolini.
During a recent Veterans’ Day speech, Trump denigrated his opponents and critics calling them “vermin.” He also suggested that they pose a greater threat to the United States than countries such as Russia, China, or North Korea.
“We pledge to you that we will root out the communists, Marxists, fascists, and the radical left thugs that live like vermin within the confines of our country that lie and steal and cheat on elections,” Trump said, again repeating his false claims that the 2020 election was stolen from him. “They’ll do anything, whether legally or illegally, to destroy America and to destroy the American Dream.”
This language received immediate criticism from historians, who compared it to that of other authoritarian leaders.
Ruth Ben-Ghiat, a historian at New York University, told the Washington Post that “calling people ‘vermin’ was used effectively by Hitler and Mussolini to dehumanize people and encourage their followers to engage in violence.”
Timothy Naftali, a senior research scholar at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, told the Post that the use of the word “vermin,” was used by Trump, like other dictators, to dehumanize his opponents.
“When you dehumanize an opponent, you strip them of their constitutional rights to participate securely in a democracy because you’re saying they’re not human,” he said. “That’s what dictators do.”
Trump’s comments also drew blowback from Democrats and the Biden campaign, who called the former president’s language “autocratic.”
“On a weekend when most Americans were honoring our nation’s heroes, Donald Trump parroted the language of Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini – two dictators many US veterans gave their lives fighting, in order to defeat exactly the kind of un-American ideas Trump now champions,” Moussa said in a statement. “Donald Trump thinks he can win by dividing our country. He’s wrong, and he’ll find out just how wrong next November.”
Republican Party Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel notably declined to criticize Trump’s rhetoric, drawing stiff condemnation from former GOP congresswoman Liz Cheney of Wyoming.
“When @GOPChairwoman refuses to condemn the GOP’s leading candidate for using the same Nazi propaganda that mobilized 1930s-40s Germany to evil, it’s fair to assume she’s collaborating,” Cheney wrote in a tweet on Monday. “History will judge Ronna McDaniel and every Republican who is appeasing this dangerous man.”
Trump Wants to Lock Up His Political Opponents
According to the Washington Post, the former president and his allies have also begun mapping out specific plans for using the federal government to punish Trump’s critics and opponents.
Trump has reportedly named individuals he wants to investigate and prosecute, including his former chief of staff, John F. Kelly, and former attorney general William P. Barr, as well as his ex-attorney Ty Cobb and former Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Gen. Mark A. Milley, according to people who have talked to the former president. He’s also discussed prosecuting officials at both the FBI and Justice Department. Trump has also vowed to “go after” President Biden and his family publicly, saying he plans to appoint a special prosecutor to do so.
Trump’s associates have also begun drafting plans to potentially invoke the Insurrection Act on his first day in office–this would allow the president to deploy the military against civil demonstrations.
Critics have called these ideas dangerous and unconstitutional.
“It would resemble a banana republic if people came into office and started going after their opponents willy-nilly,” Saikrishna Prakash, a constitutional law professor at the University of Virginia, told the Washington Post. “It’s hardly something we should aspire to.”
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