Donald Trump’s Invocation of Eisenhower and the Attacks in Paris: A New Call to Action

DDEDonald Trump had just finished his history lessons on Dwight Eisenhower’s “Operation Wetback” when the national attention was diverted to Paris and the barbarous attacks last Friday by ISIS fanatics prepared to return the world to the Dark Ages.  Trump’s comments about Ike’s deportation program – and the resulting debates about who comes in to the country and who goes out – provide an educable moment for the American people. The takeaway?  In 2015, it’s a lot easier for people to get into the country than for the United States to get them back out.

Rather than engage in a debate about the merits of Trump’s plan, we should consider how much the law has changed since Eisenhower’s deportation program in 1954, and what our ossified immigration system means for immigration policy in a time of emerging crisis.  Trump’s comments raise this question:  Why is it so hard to remove large numbers of deportable aliens?  That is the urgent question.

Lesson one: In 1954, the government had the power to engage is summary removal of illegal aliens. Deportation proceedings reflected that this was a “civil status” subject to a cursory administrative review. Either you were here legally or you weren’t. If you weren’t, the deportation process was fast and efficient.

Lesson two:  While the U.S. still retains the ability to repatriate those caught immediately at the border, once the alien has affected an entry into the United States, removal in 2015 is nearly impossible and takes years.  Hearings are delayed and elaborate, appeals endless, and avenues for relief many. Detention in all forms is under attack. A phony asylum claim delays deportation for years.  Deportation cases are treated like criminal trials when they are nothing of the kind.

Lesson three: The laws that were designed to prevent the admission of aliens deemed not in the public or national interest has been stripped of their vital protections.  Aliens – whether as refugees or parolees – can be admitted even if they do not accept the fundamental organizing principles of a Western democracy. Once here, they are here forever.

Lesson four:  Refugee admissions to the U.S. should be a last resort.  As FAIR has observed for over 25 years, it is both better policy and more economical to house refugees and displaced persons near the site of the conflict for eventual repatriation.  Tens of millions seek to move to the West worldwide.  They cannot be accommodated.

Aliens entering temporarily for humanitarian purposes face no realistic prospect of repatriation or removal.  An entire immigration court system was developed in the late 1980s, early 1990s with the objective of creating an impartial fact-finder on the question of deportability.  The Federal Government will never revoke the temporary protection. Endless delay tactics make it possible for aliens to meld into society and establish “equities” (including citizen offspring). This is a betrayal of the nation’s humanitarian impulses.

Cumbersome procedural layers for review in deportation proceedings were added by advocates who oppose deportation on principle. At FAIR we know who pushed this and why. But when Donald Trump talks wistfully about 1954, America needs to know that advocates opposing removal have worked for years to make summary removal of most aliens legally cumbersome and nearly impossible.  This was intentional, not by chance.

The nation is increasingly vulnerable to terrorist attack from within. The latest terror attacks in Paris, Lebanon and over the Sinai illustrate what must be accepted:  A dulling orthodoxy within certain Muslim communities has degenerated a fanatical strain that promises an epicurean paradise for mass murder on earth.  The phenomenon cannot be ignored any longer by the West.

Donald Trump’s suggestion of accelerated deportation should serve as a call to action: Congress must work with the next president to restore the nimble deportation and exclusion procedures that will assure both the safety of the nation and its future national interests.  Not one more American should die at the hands of a careless, ineffective immigration scheme.

avatar About Dan Stein

Dan is FAIR's President after joining the organization in 1982. He has testified more than 50 times before Congress, and been cited in the media as "America's best known immigration reformer." Dan has appeared on virtually every significant TV and radio news/talk program in America and, in addition to being a contributing editor to, has contributed commentaries to a vast number of print media outlets.


  1. avatar Bill Carrothers says:

    This is an excellent article, and it explains the vast changes that have occurred in this country since 1954. I appreciate the excellent scholarship and historical perspective that FAIR has provided. As someone who was twelve years old in 1954, it is refreshing to see how much saner our country was then, compared to now.

  2. avatar Gregory J Kuhl says:

    Obama says we’re afraid of widows and orphans!? What widows and orphans? They’re mostly all young able bodied males! Did they all leave their mothers, fathers, sisters,wives, children, nieces and nephews behind when they should stay and defend them, as any young American man would do?! They are all either cowardly bastards, or cowardly terrorist bastards! And, their women and children are being trained as terrorists also! This all seems insane until one realizes Obama’s plan to create terrorism and race war and impose martial law, a military communist dictatorship, destroy Christianity and European Americans. Yes I said it. He is a communist, muslim, illegal immigrant racist! Please Americans, let’s keep our language, culture and our borders!

  3. avatar Diane anglin says:

    I agree that refugees should be housed near he sight of the conflict. And all able bodied ones should be taught to fight to retake their country and encouraged to do so.

  4. avatar Barbara Griffith says:

    I doubt Trump knows about E-Verify I have never heard him talk about it unless I didn’t catch what he said. I have tried to contact him via the website he sends out about where his appearances will be. From the crowds where ever he goes he will get the nomination the repub are so concerned about it that this month they are starting a huge campaign on television and social media trying to get the public to dump him and pick one of their bought and paid for candidates. They will be wasting their millions because no follower of Trump will budge and neither will I. I’m like a lot of his followers I am sick and tired of these politicians saying one thing and get their crooked buts in office and do a complete about face and kick their new constituents in the teeth along with doing what their donors want.

  5. Trump Starts the Ideas

    And the some of the GOP candidates with a brain are aping his ideas for votes , except the new House Speaker, Paul Ryan…..the real GOP leadership example force against Trump. Until the GOP leadership pushes 100% eVerify immediately in the workplace [this includes Trump BTW], self-deportation with $0 cost is not going to happen. The GOP just becomes exaggerating Democrats on immigration without eVerify.

    • avatar Leland says:

      I agree. There is no important issue on illegal immigration than e-verify. Since most illegals are working age e-verify would be a huge disincentive to stay here. Trump needs to step up on the issue if he’s serious.

  6. avatar SecBorders says:

    Very informative Dan. Unfortunately the harsh realities of the world have a way of catching up with people who choose to ignore them. The era when the home front was largely shielded from the harsh realities of the world by the two great oceans is long over, whether some of our leaders want to acknowledge it or not. This is isn’t 1900, before man had even successfully developed the airplane. The world is a lot smaller now that people on the other side of the world can hop on a plane and in a few hours be either in our country or a nearby country that doesn’t have adequate security procedures. Our entire immigration system needs to be updated to deal with the new reality.

  7. avatar Leland says:

    In his Washington Post column Charles Krauthammer dishonestly attacked Trump when he wrote the following about the recent debate:

    “And when asked about the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the 12 nation trade deal he opposes root and branch, Trump did his riff on the Chinese economic menace-to which Rand Paul calmly pointed out that China is not party to the TPP.”

    Trump is well aware that China is not part of it. His statement was “”it’s a deal to allow China to come in through the back door like they always do”. What he is talking about are the loopholes that will let TPP countries send products here tariff free that can contain up to 60% of material from a non-TPP country like China.

    For example, we have tariffs on Chinese steel. China can send their steel to Viet Nam and that country can send finished products here tariff free that have a substantial amount of Chinese steel. China thereby pays no tariffs to us but their steel comes here anyway. Trump is absolutely correct and one of the few people to point out that China is not our friend but our enemy. Why we continue to allow them to send their students here to use our educational system is beyond explanation.

    • avatar MB says:

      Krauthammer also wrote in another article that the GOP basically needed to get with the program (stop pushing deportations…) and stop alienating Latino’s. I wrote him asking that he send his address so we could send illegals to his residence and he could take care of them. Of course he did not respond.

      In response to the article, mandatory E verify would be a great start to getting rid of the illegals. And a deterrent to keep more from coming. Then work on changing the process back to what it was in 1954 for quick and easy deportation.

      • avatar Leland says:

        The GOP as presently constituted will cease to exist if they endorse continuing amnesties. Those people are low income in general and they are going to vote for the big social programs of the Democrats, no matter what the Republicans do on immigration. The GOP can match the Democrats step by step on immigration and amnesties and Latinos will still vote Democratic. Anyone who thinks differently is a fool.

        • avatar Mikey Smith says:

          That’s why the Democratic party has helped make it impossible to deport. ICE has its hands tied as an agency. Court dates for review are 2 years behind…..the system is worthless. If an illegal alien is injured in a crime of some sort they claim it and receive the right to stay in America. Fake an injury from a fake crime with NO suspect and they get amnesty. WOW! Lawyers get paid,the judicial system gets paid, handouts everywhere and the American people pay the price…

          • avatar Richard Harris says:

            the solution is to appoint special judges and special courts to deal with the backlog. 50 special judges per state would be a starting point. amp up to 500 judges per state if necessary.