I know, I know ... all this talk about Donald Trump is pointless. He'll never get elected, and even if he does, all of the crazy things he's suggesting could never actually happen in the United States. We were supposed to talk about that one this week's Unpopular Opinion podcast ...
... where I'm joined by comics Josh Denny and Laura Crawford and Cracked editor Josh Sargent, but we got a bit off track. So allow me to explain it in this column here today instead. Here are five insane things Donald Trump wants to do that the United States has already tried.
#5. Mass Deportation Of Mexican Immigrants = Operation Wetback
One of the key aspects of Trump's plans to ruin this country involves the mass deportation of undocumented immigrants back to Mexico. A lot of people are taking comfort in the idea that, even if a plan like that reached the point where we actually tried to implement it, finding that many people and coordinating the effort to get them back to the country from which they came is a logistical impossibility. It sure would be nice if that was true, but it's not.
See, despite all the hate and harsh words that get thrown around in relation to the subject of immigration from Mexico, there was a time when we, as a country, wanted as much of that as we could get. In the years between the Great Depression and the start of World War II, the rapidly expanding agriculture industry in the United States depended almost entirely on Mexican immigrants for cheap labor. So much so that at some point, it became a real problem for Mexico, seeing as how they had a thriving agriculture industry of their own and sort of needed all those workers we were siphoning away.
So with that in mind ... it's a good thing World War II eventually happened?
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Well that's certainly a bold stance to take.
Of course it wasn't, but the thing about a massive war is that it creates a lot of needs back home, and for the United States, one of those needs was a lot of workers to replace the ones we sent off to fight Hitler. So in exchange for not having to be an active participant in the war, Mexico agreed to send us workers on a short-term basis. It was called the Bracero Program. We also promised to shore up border security and put tighter restrictions on hiring workers who were in the country illegally, the thinking being that between sending back undocumented immigrants and workers here legally under the Bracero Program returning after two years, Mexico would eventually solve the massive labor shortage that was hindering efforts to industrialize their country.
Wait, that doesn't sound so bad, right? Illegal immigration was hurting Mexico, and we were just sending people back to help fix that problem. The only hitch is that it didn't really work. Workers crossing the border to seek higher wages and better opportunities in America never stopped happening. We didn't really want for it to stop happening, but for diplomatic reasons, we had to do something. That something ended up being the unfortunately-named Operation Wetback.
What was that? Oh, just a plan to deport undocumented immigrants on a massive scale. How massive? Well, more than one million immigrants were apprehended in the first year alone. Keep in mind that this was the 1950s. We didn't have a fraction of the resources available to us now back in those days, especially in terms of technology that allows us to track people more effectively.
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"In my day, hating Mexicans was all done on pen and paper."
If you can track people, you can find people. If you can find people, you can arrest them and send them somewhere else. It really isn't rocket science. Your grandparents figured it out, and they can't even operate a smartphone without government intervention. It's foolish to think that the nightmarish logistics of rounding up a lot of people will keep mass deportations from happening.
Did Operation Wetback work, at least? Nope. Illegal immigration never stopped being a problem, and even worse, the program was rife with abuse and mistreatment. At one point, 88 Mexican immigrants died after we just dropped them in the middle of the desert in July, when temperatures were in the 112-degree range. In all, there were 11,000 documented cases of abuse, with who knows how many additional instances that went unreported.
In other words, it was a disaster. Even worse, it's a disaster that's mostly been forgotten in this country, which is all the more reason to trust that it can happen again.
#4. Targeting US Citizens = Japanese Internment Camps
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One of the more troubling aspects of Trump's immigration plan is that he not only makes it clear that he wants to deport people here illegally, but also vows that doing so won't break up families. The problem with that is that in a lot of cases, the children involved were actually born here, meaning they're citizens of this country, according to the Constitution. It's called birthright citizenship, and it's a thing Trump wants to do away with, as clearly stated in his own words right there on his official website.
Yes, I've been assured by people who know way more about these things than I do that an act of that nature would require years of maneuvering through Congress and such to make it a reality, and that's certainly comforting to some degree. It's one thing to target undocumented immigrants. Going after actual citizens of the United States is an entirely different thing, and really drastic and unsavory measures would be required for it to happen. That's especially true if you're hoping to do it without the public thinking you're an out-of-control tyrant.
The problem is that sometimes drastic things happen, and in those cases, the people and the government alike have proven time and time again that all bets are off when they do. Take what happened to Japanese people in this country after the United States finally entered World War II, for example. Do you remember that? It was the attack on Pearl Harbor, which was carried out by Japan, that prompted us to finally get involved.
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All it took was this!
That, in turn, prompted us to round up anyone of Japanese descent who lived on the West Coast, United States citizens included, and force them to relocate to internment camps. It wasn't just a few, either. More than 60 percent of the people we detained were full-fledged citizens of this country. Unsurprisingly, history has since noted that the main driving force behind this extreme act of aggression by the government toward its own people was fueled in large part by unfounded fear and good old-fashioned racism.
So what am I saying? That Trump is going to orchestrate an attack on this country to force our hands? No, of course not. What I'm saying is that extreme things happen, and having a president who's comfortable with taking things to the extreme in office at that time can lead to really terrible things. After all, Japanese internment camps were the product of the FDR administration. He certainly didn't run for office on a platform built of hate and racism. He's regularly credited as one of the architects of modern liberalism in this country, in fact. But when shit got crazy, he threw all of that out the window in favor of indiscriminately rounding up one group of people and forcing them to live in camps where we could keep an eye on them.
Again, I'm not saying that a massive tragedy will befall this country if Trump gets elected. I'm just saying that, given his current stance on immigrants living in this country, he's the worst possible option to have in place if something does happen.
If you see something, say something, right? I'm just doing my job.
#3. Law Enforcement That Disproportionately Affects Minorities = Anti-Drug Abuse Act Of 1986
Trump's policies aren't just focused on wacky illegal immigration ideas. His gun control plans are pretty damn insane, as well. For starters, a lot of it involves making guns easier to buy and even easier to carry around in public, which you'll note flies directly in the face of the wishes of every gun control advocate on the planet. But there's a hitch in that his plan to keep firearms in the hands of "lawful" gun owners is only outpaced in aggressiveness by his plan to take them from "criminals" in poor neighborhoods. I put those words in quotes because they are his words, and the "criminals" in question live specifically in Chicago and Baltimore.
But why those cities???
So what's his plan to fix that situation? As I mentioned in my first article about this monster, his plan is pretty simple. He's wants to impose a mandatory minimum prison sentence of five years for any crime involving a gun. So if you get caught selling weed while carrying an unregistered gun, you go to prison for five years. Get a DUI while you happen to have an unregistered gun in your glove compartment, and you go to prison for 5 years. It's harsh, to say the least, especially when you take into account that his own words make it clear that when he says "criminals," he's talking specifically about people using guns in inner-city areas. The problem there is that if you live in an area that's overrun with gun violence, carrying a gun for your own protection kind of makes sense. More sense than carrying one so you can shoot at fleeing shoplifters in a Home Depot parking lot, anyway.
It's not like black people are the only ones committing crimes with guns. In fact, most of the gun crimes people get up in arms about these days, like school shootings or rampage killings, are carried out by white people. The problem is that this law will have absolutely zero impact on that. Those people are going to prison anyway, and for way longer than five years, and most of those crimes are committed with guns that were purchased legally. Remember, his plan specifically mentions places like Chicago. The irony there is that Chicago actually has some of the strictest gun laws in the nation. The illegal guns arrive by way of the interstate trafficking of guns purchased legally in places with fewer restrictions, which are then resold on the black market.
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Meh, it's probably fine.
In other words, people who live in areas where carrying a gun might make some sense will be going to prison in droves just for carrying a gun, while the people who just want them because fawning over the Second Amendment is the redneck thing to do will continue to enjoy their freedom. It's a huge double standard that will almost certainly end badly. And we should all know that, because we did the exact same thing with cocaine in the '80s.
The Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 was a horrifically lopsided law which made getting caught with just five grams of crack cocaine punishable by a mandatory five-year prison sentence. Meanwhile, the threshold for powder cocaine was 500 grams. That's a lot. More than the average Hollywood coke dealer servicing the needs of celebrities would likely have on them at one time. It was a brutally unjust double standard that only happened when the crack epidemic started to affect white people, and by that I mean "the owners of the Boston Celtics."
The laws that made getting caught with a small amount of crack a huge crime were pushed through mostly in response to the untimely passing of Maryland Terrapins basketball star Len Bias. He was the number-one pick in the 1986 NBA draft, and tragically died of a drug overdose that same night.
No jokes here.
The laws this country enacted in response to that tragedy led to 20 solid years of minorities getting incarcerated at an astonishingly higher rate than white people who committed similar crimes. We finally came to our senses and changed the law in 2010.
Now here we are, just five years removed from righting that wrong, with a Republican frontrunner who wants to bring all of that disparity and inequality roaring back to life.