The GOP's totalitarian nightmare: Donald Trump's immigration plan is insane—and insanely popular

More and more Republicans support Trump's draconian—and downright inhumane—deportation proposal

By Heather Digby Parton


Published November 12, 2015 2:09PM (EST)


The latest Economist/YouGov poll reveals that Donald Trump is viewed as the GOP candidate Republicans trust most to handle immigration. What's more, the margin by which they prefer him is extremely wide, and it's grown substantially since he entered the race in July:

In the debate on Tuesday, Trump reiterated the plan which half of Republicans in the U.S. support. He promised to build a wall along the nearly 2,000 mile border and to make Mexico pay for it. He also once more committed to rounding up and deporting all illegal immigrants. As he has in the past, he referenced President Eisenhower's program from the 1950s, fatuously insisting that it must be "nice" since everybody "liked Ike," even as he assiduously avoided calling the plan by its name: "Operation Wetback."

Here's Trump's exact quote from the debate:

Let me just tell you that Dwight Eisenhower, good president, great president, people liked him. "I like Ike," right? The expression. "I like Ike." Moved a 1.5 million illegal immigrants out of this country, moved them just beyond the border. They came back.

Moved them again beyond the border, they came back. Didn't like it. Moved them way south. They never came back.


Dwight Eisenhower. You don't get nicer. You don't get friendlier. They moved a 1.5 million out. We have no choice. We have no choice.

The hearty laughter at that reprehensible tale certainly confirms those poll findings. He sounds as though he speaking of animals not human beings. And it would cruel to do that to animals.

Under questioning from Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski on Wednesday's "Morning Joe," Trump explained that he would have to create a "deportation force" to round up all these people, and has said before that it would have to include a number of American citizens, the children of these undocumented workers, because we can't be expected to take care of them. Also, it would be cruel to separate families. Just like Ike, he is so gosh darned nice.

When Trump made his comments during the debate Chuck Todd tweeted this:

We don't know if Todd included himself in that group but it's a sad comment on journalism if any reporters didn't know about Operation Wetback and even sadder that they didn't know that Donald Trump has been saying this throughout his campaign. It is part of his standard stump speech, nothing new about it at all. I mentioned it hereThe Washington Post reported on it back in September:

In Mexicali, Mexico, temperatures can reach 125 degrees as heat envelops an arid desert. Without a body of water nearby to moderate the climate, the heavy sun is relentless — and deadly.

During the summer of 1955, this is where hundreds of thousands of Mexicans were “dumped” after being discovered as migrants who crossed the U.S.-Mexico border illegally. Unloaded from buses and trucks carrying several times their capacity, the deportees stumbled into the Mexicali streets with few possessions and no way of getting home.

This was strategic: the more obscure the destination within the Mexican interior, the less opportunities they would have to return to America. But the tactic also proved to be dangerous, as the migrants were left without resources to survive.

After one such round-up and transfer in July, 88 people died from heat stroke.

At another drop-off point in Nuevo Laredo, the migrants were “brought like cows” into the desert.

Among the over 25 percent who were transported by boat from Port Isabel, Texas, to the Mexican Gulf Coast, many shared cramped quarters in vessels resembling an “eighteenth century slave ship” and “penal hell ship.”

These deportation procedures, detailed by historian Mae M. Ngai, were not anomalies. They were the essential framework of Operation Wetback — a concerted immigration law enforcement effort implemented by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1954 — and the deportation model that Donald Trump says he intends to follow.

This was not the first deportation program in America, of course. During the Red Scare of the early part of the 20th century the government deported numbers of those they determined were "subversives." But we started deporting Mexicans in large numbers starting in the 1920s, and it didn't stop for decades.

They didn't call it deportation, though. They called it "repatriation," and it happened under programs first enacted by Herbert Hoover, FDR and under various state and local officials during the 1920s and 30s. It was driven by the varying needs of the agriculture business and the political necessity for scapegoating at times of economic distress. One of their methods in these instances was to make frightening announcements of pending raids and arrests in order that the immigrant labor would "self-deport."  But the raids actually took place with harassment, beatings, family separation commonly used as methods to create terror among the population.

In 2005, California became the first state to offer an official apology for this inhumane policy. The federal government has never bothered.

That was bad enough. But the treatment of immigrants within the U.S. was inhumane too. NPR did a piece called "Indignity Along the Mexican Border" a while back about some horrifying official policies. For decades, after a brief Typhus scare, Mexicans crossing the border for day jobs in the United States were subject to a daily, toxic "de-lousing" process administered by officials who required them to strip for an inspection, undergo the lice treatment, and have their clothes treated with poison in a steam dryer. (It was later revealed they had also been surreptitiously photographed and the pictures were posted in a local bar.)

Even worse, in "Ringside Seat to a Revolution," author David Dorado Romo revealed some frankly shocking findings from the National Archives in Washington DC:

I discovered an article written in a German scientific journal written in 1938, which specifically praised the El Paso method of fumigating Mexican immigrants with Zyklon B. At the start of WWII, the Nazis adopted Zyklon B as a fumigation agent at German border crossings and concentration camps. Later, when the Final Solution was put into effect, the Germans found more sinister uses for this extremely lethal pesticide. They used Zyklon B pellets in their own gas chambers not just to kill lice but to exterminate millions of human beings.

Before WWII, the US was a major market for Zyklon B, much of it purchased by the United States Public Health Service for the purpose of disinfecting trains -- and the clothing of Mexican immigrants.

That was a long time ago and America has come a long way since it was considered okay to spray people with toxic fumigants and wash their clothes in deadly poison. But it was only a year and a half ago that some child refugees from Central America arrived at our border and hysteria about "disease" started up again:

Needless to say, it was all xenophobic panic. There were calls for quarantine, of course, but as far as I know nobody from the government suggested that they be fumigated with deadly poison. So, we have progressed.

Of course, until very recently, that old policy of rounding up all undocumented workers and deporting them deep into Mexico was not something anyone seriously contemplated either. People instinctively understood that such a massive, intrusive police action within the United States would be a totalitarian nightmare. But thanks to Donald Trump "Operation Wetback" is back on the menu. If that YouGov/Economist poll is correct, he's convinced half the Republican Party that it's a terrific idea.

Politically this is terrible for the GOP and all the sane people in the party understand this. They know they will lose elections wherever Latinos and all good people of other races and ethnicities live because it's an affront to human decency to even suggest such a thing. But there's nothing they can do. Trump is whipping the party into a xenophobic frenzy and even if they don't end up voting for him, 63 percent of Republicans now believe that undocumented workers are drug dealers, rapists and criminals, and nearly half of them believe they must be removed from our country.

Trump may never be president but he's already left an indelible legacy on our politics. And the Republican Party will be paying the price for a long time to come.

For more Donald Trump insanity watch this mash-up of The Big Lebowski’s Walter Sobchak silencing Trump, “Shut the f**k up Donny”:

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By Heather Digby Parton

Heather Digby Parton, also known as "Digby," is a contributing writer to Salon. She was the winner of the 2014 Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis Journalism.

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