Trump leans into migrant arrests, detentions to mobilize GOP base in 2020

By Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver

President Trump sees his handling of an immigration crisis, deportation roundups and fiery tweets about the border as key to mobilizing his supporters in 2020.

It’s one of the reasons he publicly championed Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) deportation arrests of undocumented migrant families before they began this weekend, ignoring the element of surprise in favor of the politics of publicly being in charge.

“They’re going to take people out, and they’re going to bring them back to their countries,” the president said last week. “Or they’re going to take criminals out — put them in prison or put them in prison in the countries they came from.”

Weekend ICE arrests of undocumented migrants were coordinated but small in number, and the operation is expected to continue this week.

“Trump can declare victory — he already scared the hell out of people,” Bill O. Hing, a University of San Francisco law professor and the director of the university’s Immigration and Deportation Defense Clinic, told The Washington Post. “There has been so much drama all over the country.

Trump’s tough-on-immigration rhetoric, playing out over many months, has succeeded in drawing sharp contrasts with Democratic presidential candidates and members of Congress, all of whom the president describes as more aligned with “alien” lawbreakers than U.S. citizens whose taxes pay the freight.

Where are the Democrats on this?” asked former Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), a Fox News contributor, applauding the administration’s deportation raids. “When you’ve gone through the final adjudication and a judge has ordered you to depart the country, how can we not all be united in say, then you have to leave? We’re not a nation where you just ignore a judge’s order. But that’s the position Democrats are taking, and it is fundamentally wrong.”

The president’s crackdown on asylum-seekers and migrants in the United States may play to his image among 51 percent of Americans as a strong and decisive leader, but when it comes to actually delivering necessary change, managing the government effectively, keeping his promises, and being honest and trustworthy, Trump gets decidedly lower marks, according to a Gallup Poll released last week.

It’s the kind of survey that would give any incumbent president heartburn because voters — who took a chance in 2016 on a newcomer with no previous government experience and a penchant for blaming others when goals remain elusive — can gauge what a second term might have in store.

Like clockwork, Trump tweeted about his strong support among Republicans; the newest NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll found 89 percent job approval within his party. The poll also found majority support from older, white males and rural voters. But political analysts believe Trump cannot win reelection simply by appealing to that older, working-class, male slice of the electorate. The president is on wobbly footing among independent voters, women, African Americans, Latinos and younger voters. And a mere 7 percent of Democrats approve of the job he’s doing, according to the NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll..

Immigration remains a polarizing issue that cuts for and against Trump. The practice of separating migrant families and keeping migrant children fenced in disturbing government facilities for long periods is deeply unpopular with a majority of Americans, and House Democrats plan hearings today and Tuesday to drive that message home.

Friday’s news coverage from McAllen, Texas, of Vice President Pence’s visit to a hot, stinking, overcrowded detention hangar with no beds, clean clothes or regular showers for 400 men penned up for three or four weeks was described as “tough stuff” by Pence. He brought the cameras and journalists with him to see what he called “a crisis.”

Trump, however, lashed out at the news media and critics of his migrant policies. He says conditions are adequate but meant to be harsh enough to send a message of deterrence to undocumented migrants. “Tell them not to come to USA, and tell the Dems to fix the Loopholes – Problem Solved!” he tweeted on Sunday.

Pence’s tour, the president argued, showcased a “clean” but crowded detention facility for men that was “loaded up with a big percentage of criminals.” It was an assertion never uttered on Friday by the vice president or Department of Homeland Security officials who accompanied Pence and Republican senators who are members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The New York Times: ICE begins low-key arrests over the weekend targeting undocumented migrant families, part of a deportation operation focused on an estimated 2,000 people and expected to continue this week.

The Washington Post: Trump stirred alarm among immigrants after trumpeting mass roundups across cities. Routine enforcement operations have ensued.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot: Why Chicago will not assist ICE in its raids.

The Associated Press: Some churches offer targeted migrant families safe haven.

The Washington Post: Administration opens another 2,500-bed migrant detention facility in Texas.

More from the administration

White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney builds a conservative fiefdom while he lets “Trump be Trump” (The Washington Post) … Trump weighs ousting Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross following census setback ruling by Supreme Court (NBC News) … Trump is more animatedly discussing replacing Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, a change he has mulled since February (Axios) …  Here’s how Trump selected conservative economist Judy Shelton for the Federal Reserve (The Hill).

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