In retrospect, a prime message of Donald Trump’s 2016 successful campaign rhetoric was certainly his intent to deport millions of illegal immigrants – regardless of their status – in a short time.
Four years later, most Trump supporters would be stunned to learn that President Obama, in his first term in office, deported a record number of undocumented immigrants. The Trump faithful would be even more surprised that Hispanic immigration advocates disparagingly labeled Obama the “deporter-in-chief” in 2009-12.
Yet, Trump’s anti-immigrant disciples seem to have fully forgiven the president for falling far short of his 2016 promises of deporting all or most of the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants.
In fact, In Obama’s first term in office he deported a record 1.49 million undocumented immigrants from the U.S. over four years – averaging nearly 400,000 deportees annually.
In contrast, Trump, despite his hot 2016 rhetoric, has deported 928,194 million illegal immigrants in his first four years in office, as of Aug. 31. That’s an average of about 232,000 annually. That’s quite a bit short of the Obama track record.
To be fair, Trump’s attempts to overhaul U.S. immigration policy through dubious executive orders resulted in unfavorable court rulings and congressional opposition. Yet, the Trump loyalty somehow concluded that the president’s eccentric, ineffective approach was something to just brush aside in 2020.
In addition, the pro-Trump base of non-college white males in the 50-64 age group applauded his ancillary efforts to dramatically reduce legal immigration and to mostly shut down asylum seekers and refugees. That was a major plus in Trump world.
With the Middle East suffering from war-time conditions and famine, in his final days in office Obama called for U.S. acceptance of up to 110,000 refugees annually. Trump immediately cut that to 50,000 and incrementally lowered that cap to 18,000 this year.
To the delight of his most enthusiastic supporters, the president substantially altered U.S. policy by sending asylum seekers to Mexico to wait for a resolution of their case, instead of letting them into the United States.
Meanwhile, his plans to create a “big, beautiful wall” paid for by Mexico have crumbled into nothing more than a snake oil salesman’s pitch aimed at the xenophobes.
At the same time, Trump’s most aggressive anti-immigrant policies went way too far, creating a backlash that went far beyond the outcry of left-wing Democrats who loudly opposed his proposal to triple the number of ICE agents.
The ICE-led efforts to shamelessly deter immigration by separating thousands of children, some as young as five months, from their parents at the border sparked outrage – even if the shock of that policy has waned a bit.
Earlier today, news reports indicated that the incompetence of the Department of Homeland Security have led to a situation where the department still cannot track down the parents of 545 children taken into custody over the past three years.
The fact that Trump on the campaign trail doesn’t emphasize immigration and deportation and the border wall with less than two weeks to go before Election Day certainly indicates that one of his top priorities of 2016 has failed to catch fire, except among a minority of voters.