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5 Feb, 2024 08:41

Trump doubles down on mass deportation plans

New York could flip to Republicans due to migrant-related problems, the former president has claimed
Trump doubles down on mass deportation plans

Donald Trump has praised former US President Dwight D. Eisenhower for his mass deportation of illegal immigrants in the 1950s, insisting again that he will deploy similar tactics if reelected this year.  

Eisenhower was “very strong on deportation,” Trump told Fox News’ Maria Bartiromo in an interview aired on Sunday. The former US leader’s military-style expulsion campaign in the summer of 1953 affected as many as 1.3 million people, making the program the largest of its kind in American history. Trump is seeking to surpass Eisenhower if elected president in November. 

“He dropped them [immigrants] very close to the border, and they came back. Then he dropped them 2,000 miles away, and they didn’t come back,” Trump said, describing the Eisenhower administration’s tactics. 

The Eisenhower-era ‘Operation Wetback’ was intended to address public discontent with foreign workers, predominantly Mexican nationals, who had moved to the US in large numbers a decade earlier in response to a labor shortage caused by the World War II military draft. The name derived from a disparaging term for illegal Mexican workers employed by US farm owners in border states.

The estimate of 1.3 million deportees was the upper figure provided by US officials, although historians have disputed its accuracy. The actual number may have been be closer to 300,000, studies have suggested. Nevertheless, the campaign was accused of being unnecessarily cruel and sometimes fatal for expelled workers, who were hauled out of the country in crammed buses, boats, and planes. 

Playing on anti-immigrant sentiment helped lead Trump to electoral success in 2016, and the Republican frontrunner has made the issue part of his current bid for a return to the White House.  

In his interview with Fox, Trump claimed Latin American governments were “sending people … that they don’t want” across the US border. He also alleged that China was encouraging the crossings, predicting that this would result in a “terrorist attack, 100%.” 

The former US leader also commented on the high-profile incident in New York last month, in which a group of migrants was filmed attacking police officers in Times Square while one of them was being arrested. The assault caused a nationwide uproar, with politicians on both sides of the political aisle calling for the perpetrators to be deported.

Trump condemned the attack and suggested that the crime rate in New York City, which he linked to the border situation, could cause its traditionally Democratic constituents to turn Republican. 

“The people of New York are angry. People that would have never voted for me because I’m a Republican,” Trump said. “I think they’re going to vote for me. So I think we’re going to give New York a heavy shot.”