Donald Trump launched his presidential campaign by warning that America had become a “dumping ground” for immigrants, and that Mexico in particular was sending criminals and people with “lots of problems.” His presidency has been marked by anti-immigrant rhetoric. 

In the summer of 2019, President Trump previewed sweeping immigration raids, tweeting that “Next week ICE will begin the process of removing the millions of illegal aliens who have illicitly found their way into the United States.” 

The Trump administration, like the Obama administration before it, had already conducted raids targeting undocumented immigrants, but Trump was promising a series of actions that were intended to at least create the impression of a step-up in immigration enforcement around the country. 

That culminated in early August, when Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agents conducted one of the largest worksite immigration raids in U.S. history, arresting nearly 700 chicken plant workers in Mississippi on suspicion of working illegally. The raids, which were conducted jointly with the Department of Justice, left young children separated from their parents.

The Trump administration has defended the raids, saying they had been in the works for over a year—and arguing that the workplaces were exploiting undocumented workers.

Are these raids just for show? Does Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric actually encourage asylum seekers? And what’s the connection between the Obama-era raids and Trumps? Reason‘s Peter Suderman sat down with ProPublica reporter Dara Lind to discuss these questions and more.

Interview by Peter Suderman. Intro and Graphics by Mark McDaniel. Edited by Ian Keyser. Cameras by McDaniel and Regan Taylor.

‘Bottom Feeders’ by Audiobinger is licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0

Photo Credits:

Ice/ZUMA Press/Newscom
Charles Reed/ZUMA Press/Newscom
Erik Mcgregor/ZUMA Press/Newscom
NATALIE KREBS/UPI/Newscom
Yin Bogu Xinhua News Agency/Newscom

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