DeSantis Aims to Outdo Trump on Immigration

The former president’s pledge to end birthright citizenship is a new low but unlikely to be the end.

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Donald Trump was the most anti-immigrant U.S. president in nearly 100 years. He oversaw a family separation policy at the border that traumatized countless children and lost track of hundreds of parents; slashed refugee admissions to record lows; gutted access to asylum; and much more.

But for some of the most influential U.S. nativists and white nationalists — people Republican presidential candidates have decided they need to court during and after the primary season — Trump’s crackdowns were not enough. Some see greater potential in his top rival for the 2024 nomination, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Can DeSantis successfully co-opt Trump’s trademark issue? DeSantis is trying to paint the MAGA leader as soft on immigration.

At the end of May, he attacked Trump as pro-amnesty for his onetime support of a failed GOP bill that would have legalized some immigrants brought here as children in exchange for more border militarization and cuts to legal immigration. And last weekend, DeSantis met with families of victims of the 9/11 terror attacks as they criticized Trump’s decision to host a Saudi-funded golf tournament.

On Tuesday, Trump sought to reclaim his position as the No. 1 anti-immigrant crusader by reviving one of the most extreme ideas explored during his presidency: an executive order ending birthright citizenship.

The proposed order, which he promised to sign his first day in office if reelected, would face immediate legal challenges for its clear violation of the Constitution’s 14th Amendment, which guarantees citizenship to everyone born in the U.S. His plan relies on a tortured reading of the amendment from pseudo-intellectuals at California’s Claremont Institute, such as Trump’s former lawyer John Eastman, a key player in the effort to overturn the 2020 election who also wrote an unhinged article questioning Vice President Kamala Harris’ citizenship (it led to an editors’ apology).

If the Supreme Court ruled in Trump’s favor — not impossible to imagine — it would defy more than a century of legal precedent. And it would create a shadow population of millions of U.S.-born people who could be jailed and deported. In the eyes of restrictionists, it would all be worth it for a decline in “anchor babies,” their slur for the U.S.-born children of people who lack legal immigration status.

But restrictionists are skeptical that Trump would follow through on his promise given his record of sloppy executive orders and their chaotic implementation. Past orders were often blocked by courts.

“I fear this will be one more example of him writing up an executive order and either it fizzles out or they don’t pursue it with the seriousness and professionalism it deserves,” Mark Krikorian, a lead architect of the 21st century movement to strangle legal and illegal immigration, told me. He frowns on Trump’s occasional expressions of support for legal immigration.

“He’s not even a restrictionist,” he complained to me, criticizing Trump’s failure to stop guest worker and other visa programs. Krikorian heads the Center for Immigration Studies, classified as an anti-immigrant hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center despite Krikorian’s claims to the contrary. He prefers DeSantis over Trump.

So do some open white nationalists, who cheer on his policies and rhetoric online and see them as signs that he’s more hostile toward overall immigration, which is important for those who fear demographic change.

DeSantis recently signed Senate Bill 1718, which turned Florida into the most anti-immigrant state in the nation. It makes it a felony to give undocumented people rides, jobs or shelter; requires employers to verify workers’ immigration statuses and invalidates certain out-of-state driver’s licenses for undocumented people. DeSantis also banned sanctuary cities in his state.

Some of DeSantis’ actions were on the wish list of Trump’s senior advisor Stephen Miller, whose ideas were shaped by Krikorian’s Center for Immigration Studies and other groups created by John Tanton — a well-connected white supremacist who fathered the modern nativist movement. But although Miller did push Trump in a more hardline direction on overall immigration, he wasn’t able to implement the full Tanton agenda because of his inexperience and an uphill battle in a White House with more moderate voices on the immigration issue, such as Jared Kushner.

Miller remains loyal to Trump. But DeSantis is positioning himself as more in line with Miller than Trump himself, who sometimes caved to pressure to temper his harsh positions, such as when he called off family separations at the border in response to national outrage.

Trump’s promise to end birthright citizenship seeks to correct the notion that he’s the less ruthless candidate. One shudders to imagine how DeSantis will try to one-up Trump’s threat. “Those two guys are in a white nationalist arms race,” Chris Newman, legal director for the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, told me.

Click here to read the full article in the LA Times


  1. Robin Itzler - Patriot Neighbors says

    I know many people who live in Florida, and they have all told me how disgusted they are that Governor Ron DeSantis ran for re-election six months ago and was not honest with them that he would soon abandon the state and run for president. (Democrat family members in Florida do not care what DeSantis does.)

    These are all DeSantis supporters – at least as Florida’s governor. They are NOT supporting him for president. They have insisted to me that they do not trust him for running for re-election when he knew while campaigning for re-election that his plans would be to dump the state and seek the presidency.

  2. JimNorCal says

    GovRonD has also run with base on Covid.
    But I expect Trump to win the nomination fairly easily. Hopefully, DeS will return in ’28.
    He’s not a bad guy at all but it’s Trump’s turn (imo)

  3. Brenda F Torres says

    Separating Adults (Parents) from children was Obama’s idea, not Trump…

  4. Florida Resident W Walker says

    This is a full-on racist op-ed and it is so surprising to be printed and shared. Calling everyone who wants to secure our nation “white supremacy ” projects what it’s false claims do: a racist article trying against whites people. Full-on racist and an attempt to use “identity politics”on an issue that all races can agree in: that we need to follow the laws, that all the legal immigration planning and quotas are there for valid reasons— and that an open border is a grave risk to our security and stability.

    As far as DeSellout is concerned- Ron has not shown an ability to step up to solve real problems. During Katrina we had the mayor of Katrina screaming daily about the lack of federal help for the people. To this day, nearly a year later, we have massive amount of people still living in damaged most-filled homes and without anyone advocating for them. We have homes unable to afford escalating insurance brought on my RD ‘s “insurance reform.” Red tide unresolved. Lack of living wages for first responders, teachers, civil servants. The list is endless and it is a mess. Like Newsom, RD has a “trifecta”— that is not how the nation is set up. We need a fighter, a leader in FL and he needs to show he can solve major problems. He has not. Trump has shown he is “boss” and a fixer- that is why the political establishment (that RD has now joined) wants to defeat him. Imagine, an outsider who gets things done and not just more of the same empty political promises we see time and again.

  5. Mike Tardif says

    “Donald Trump was the most anti-immigrant U.S. president in nearly 100 years.”
    Well, that’s your first lie of many in this article.

    • Exactly, just to name one example, how about Eisenhower and Operation Wetback? Trump demonstrated that the flow across the border of illegal aliens and those coming to commit asylum fraud could be greatly diminished, but he did not do much wrt to deporting the millions of tens of millions of illegals who are already here.

  6. You can google her and see who she is, a pro-illegal-immigration far-left journalist. She is just spewing the common far-left propaganda about illegal immigration. The people who separate families and abuse children are those, who take their children along to use like a passport for easy entry and release into the US, or who send their children alone to be smuggled into the US. They are smuggled by cartels who have murdered half a million people in Mexico in the last couple of decades. People who abuse children like this belong in prison.

  7. If dems believe this, no wonder they hate President Trump. By following our laws and setting boundaries, we had the most orderly immigration system in years thanks to strong American First standards. That cannot be denied unless you are a lemming willing to believe anything from the far left.

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