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What can Trump do? Sorting out his immigration plans
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What can Trump do? Sorting out his immigration plans

2016 Border Project: Arizona

The international border fence transitions from pedestrian barrier to vehicle barrier west of Nogales, Arizona.

Donald Trump made immigration the launching point of his campaign.

He pledged to build a “beautiful” border wall and make Mexico pay for it. He talked of deportation forces that would go after the estimated 11 million undocumented people living in this country. He said he would not offer protection to children who were brought here illegally by their parents.

Once Trump becomes president, how likely is it that his pledges will become reality? We sort it out .

Can he build a wall?

Trump’s boast of building an impenetrable wall on the U.S.-Mexico border — and making Mexico pay for it — took several forms over the course of Trump’s campaign. Most commonly he proposed a solid wall dozens of feet high, stretching about 1,000 miles along the international boundary.

In Arizona and California, much of the border already has some sort of fencing.

Urban areas tend to have pedestrian fencing, where 20-foot steel poles separate places like Nogales and San Diego from their sister cities in Mexico. As their name implies, they’re designed to stop people on foot.

Remote areas, where crossers often are in cars, have chest-high vehicle barriers, rail-and-post fencing or barbed wire.

Arizona has about 120 miles of pedestrian fencing and 180 miles of vehicle barriers along its border with Mexico. Along the remaining 66 miles, the only barrier is barbed wire or mountains.

Border Patrol officials say fences are tools to slow down illegal border crossings and give agents time to make an apprehension, rather than stopping crossings altogether. Trump’s proposed wall would be designed to stop all crossings outside of legal ports of entry.

About 1,200 miles of the border have no fencing of any kind, but most of those stretches have canyons or mountains that act as natural deterrents — and where the terrain makes building a fence or wall difficult. In Texas, most of the border is along the Rio Grande, which serves as a natural barrier, or is privately owned.

Trump has said he does not plan to build the wall along stretches where natural barriers suffice.

Fenced or not, the borderlands are protected by Border Patrol agents. Large swaths also are guarded by sophisticated electronic surveillance equipment.

The estimated costs of walling the rest vary, but range from a few billion dollars to as much as $40 billion.

Trump consistently said he would make the Mexican government pay that bill. But Mexican officials voiced stiff opposition to that idea. Whether a fiscally conservative, Republican-controlled Congress will approve spending billions of dollars on the project might be the biggest question of all.

Can he send “Dreamers” back to countries they don’t remember?

President Obama issued a 2012 executive order protecting from deportation more than 700,000 young people brought illegally to this country by their parents. An appeals court blocked the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program, and the U.S. Supreme Court deadlocked, which let that ruling stand.

Trump’s immigration plan states he would “immediately terminate President Obama’s two illegal executive amnesties.” If Trump were to revoke DACA, an estimated 4,000 Pima County residents who crossed the border illegally before they were 16 years old would find their futures in jeopardy.

Under DACA, “Dreamers” were eligible to avoid deportation for two years — and that was renewable — if they stayed out of legal trouble, were studying or graduated from high school, or served honorably in the military.

If Trump revokes the program, the roughly 27,000 Arizona residents who have DACA deferrals and another 19,000 whose deferrals were renewed as of March, would lose their driver’s licenses and their ability to work legally in the United States.

Undocumented students at the University of Arizona or Pima Community College could see their tuition rise enough to put it out of reach .

Both schools let DACA students pay in-state tuition , but without DACA protection they would be subject to an Arizona law that denies in-state tuition to undocumented students.

Beyond all that, their greatest fear is that the information they provided on their DACA application could be used to round them up and deport them.

Not only could Trump rescind DACA with a stroke of a pen, he also could undo a 2014 executive action that offered similar protection to about 5 million more undocumented young people and to the parents of U.S. citizens or legal residents.

A Trump nominee to the Supreme Court also could do the job for him. The 2014 action was blocked by the courts and a deadlocked eight-member Supreme Court.

Can he round up and deport 11 million undocumented immigrants?

Trump campaigned on a hard-line stance toward immigration — at one point he proposed a deportation force that would round up and deport millions of undocumented immigrants.

Later he appeared to soften that stance and said law-abiding immigrants who have lived in the country for years might be allowed to stay if they paid back taxes. He also expressed some trepidation over breaking up families through deportation — and at one point he even asked an audience what they thought he should do.

Then he changed his mind again, saying he would not grant legal status unless an undocumented immigrant first returned to his or her home country and applied to be admitted to the United States. That process can take years.

The 10-point immigration plan he announced in Phoenix on Aug. 31 included efforts to block federal funding to sanctuary cities, to deport criminal aliens on “day one” of his presidency, to triple the number of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, and to stop issuing visas to immigrants from countries where applicants cannot be screened.

The plan also included strengthening workplace enforcement to deter the hiring of undocumented immigrants and fully implementing biometric tracking at ports of entry and airports.

Trump started gathering immigration hard-liners as he prepares to take office. Kris Kobach, Kansas’ secretary of state and co-author of Arizona’s controversial 2010 immigration law known as SB 1070, told a Wichita TV station he was chosen to help Trump formulate immigration policy as part of his transition team.

Investors appear to be taking Trump at his word about cracking down on illegal immigration.

Private prison company CoreCivic — until late October known as Corrections Corporation of America — saw its stock price shoot up 36 percent the morning after Trump’s victory. The company runs facilities in Eloy and Florence , which detains many undocumented immigrants. Another private prison company, GEO Group, saw its stock price rise 17 percent.

In Arizona, home to more than 300,000 undocumented immigrants, an AP exit poll on Nov. 8 showed that about 1 in 10 voters said immigration was the most pressing issue facing the country.

A majority rejected Trump’s call to deport people who entered the country illegally and his proposal to build a border wall. Three-quarters of Arizona voters support a path to legal status for immigrants, the poll found.

Can he yank the U.S.

Trump took regular aim at a trade deal that bolsters Arizona’s economy with about $30 billion in annual trade with Mexico.

He denounced the North American Free Trade Agreement as a “disaster” as he told voters from states where manufacturing had dried up that their jobs had been exported to Mexico. He said one of his first acts in office would be to renegotiate NAFTA and bring those jobs back to the United States.

The NAFTA treaty with Mexico and Canada was signed by President George Bush in 1992 and the implementing legislation was signed by President Bill Clinton in 1993. Since then, U.S.-Mexico trade quintupled to about $500 billion annually as tariffs were virtually eliminated.

Trump called NAFTA “the worst trade deal ever approved in this country.” He said he would put a 35 percent tariff on imports by U.S. companies operating in Mexico, which could affect a broad swath of the Arizona economy.

The business community in Nogales adamantly opposes getting rid of NAFTA, said Bruce Bracker, a Nogales businessman and past chairman of the Greater Nogales Santa Cruz County Port Authority.

“Arizona’s economy is absolutely dependent on NAFTA,” Bracker said, noting that 639,000 trucks drove through Nogales ports last year.

Area businesspeople are anxious about what Trump might do, and many hope that the bluster of his campaign will give way to a position that’s “a lot more moderate,” Bracker said.

Trade with Mexico supports about 100,000 jobs in Arizona, and retailers depend on the roughly $8 million Mexican shoppers spend daily in Arizona.

The binational trade that goes through Nogales, as well as an increasing number of companies with offices in Arizona and Sonora, operates under NAFTA rules.

Every day, hundreds of trucks haul thousands of pounds of fruits and vegetables from farms in Mexico through the commercial port of entry in Nogales. The same goes for industrial products made in assembly plants in Nogales, Sonora. Trains roll through Nogales daily carrying Ford sedans made at a plant in Hermosillo and tons of Mexican cement.

About 34,000 people work in more than 100 assembly plants just south of the border, churning out electronic appliances, aerospace parts, machinery and equipment, and other industrial goods.

The companies that own the assembly plants — maquiladoras, as they are known in Spanish — are based throughout the United States, including California, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Illinois, Minnesota and states that proved key in the 2016 election: Pennsylvania, Indiana, Wisconsin, Ohio, Iowa and Michigan.

Other companies are based or have offices in Nogales, Arizona, or in Rio Rico, Tucson, Phoenix, Chandler and Tempe. In Tucson, hundreds of companies export goods to Mexico or Canada under NAFTA rules.

Despite the broad powers a president has over trade, Trump likely will face opposition from Republican members of Congress who traditionally support free trade.

When the NAFTA vote went to the House it found support among 234 Republicans. Last year 190 Republicans voted to give President Obama fast-track authority to negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.

Trump also might find himself consorting with an unlikely ally for a Republican president: labor unions who blame NAFTA for the loss of manufacturing jobs.

Contact Curt Prendergast at 573-4224 or On Twitter


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