The Apprentice: Immigration Edition

Trump caricature by DonkeyHotey

Trump caricature by DonkeyHotey, used under Creative Commons license

Remember the television “reality” show that Trump hosted for 14 years? Each episode ended in the mock corporate boardroom meeting, with Trump eliminating another contestant  with his trademark “You’re fired!” He liked the TV reality show format so well that he seems to be using it as a model for running the country. This week: goodbye to Ron Vitiello, Kirstjen Nielsen, and a threat of getting rid of all the judges.

Vitiello, who has been serving as acting ICE director since last summer, was Trump’s nominee to head ICE. No longer: Trump withdrew the nomination on April 5, saying he wanted to go in a “tougher” direction. The former head of the Border Patrol not tough enough? That might surprise Democrats who opposed his nomination, based on Vitiello’s “role in the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy that led to the separation of migrant children from their parents and a 2015 Twitter post in which Mr. Vitiello referred to the Democratic Party as the “liberalcratic party or NeoKlanist Party.”  

The Post’s Nick Miroff tweeted: “Admin officials and lawmakers are stunned by Trump decision to ditch Vitiello, and the blame is falling on Stephen Miller. “Stephen would like to put Attila the Hun at ICE,” one exasperated admin official told us.”

Trump has not had a permanent director of ICE confirmed during his administration.

On Sunday night, Trump tweeted that Kirstjen Nielsen, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, finally announced that she was leaving. Her resignation letter came after a meeting with Trump. Nielsen’s tenure has been marked by inability to accomplish Trump’s demand to end all illegal immigration as well as severely restricting legal immigration. Don’t worry: she’s staying on for three whole days to help with an orderly transition. 

Both moves come against a backdrop of Trump’s repeated calls to end immigration, especially asylum, and to “get rid of the judges.”

Vox reported on Tuesday:

“If you take Donald Trump at his word, he wants to get rid of judges.

“But it is a bad idea to take Donald Trump at his word, or to assume that just because Trump says he wants a thing, that thing is going to happen.

“During a rambling press appearance Tuesday with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Trump went on a brief rant about all the changes to immigration policy he wanted Congress to pass, featuring some old favorites — like ending “chain migration” and the visa lottery — but including a new spin on Trump’s attacks on asylum seekers…

“The “we have to get rid of judges” comment has raised some alarm from people who are especially attuned to any apparent Trump attack on democratic legitimacy and the rule of law. Even people who are properly understanding the “judges” comment as being about immigration judges are taking this as a serious declaration by Trump that he wants to end due process for people seeking asylum in the United States.

“Although the comment is a vivid example of the president’s attitude toward migrants who have a legal right to seek asylum in the US, given that it was part of a press appearance in which Trump lied about his father’s birthplace and repeatedly pronounced “origins” as “oranges,” it would be foolish to take this comment as a statement of imminent administration policy.”

Then Trump repeated and strengthened the demand on Friday, after also announcing that “the country is full” and has no room for immigrants.

“President Donald Trump made two remarkably authoritarian comments on Friday, first urging Congress to “get rid of judges” — specifically, immigration judges — and later demeaning the entire media as the “ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE!”

“But in a sign of how normalized the behavior of this president has become, neither remark amounted to much more than a blip on the news radar….

“Congress has to act,” Trump said. “They have to get rid of catch and release, chain migration, visa lottery, they have to get rid of the whole asylum system because it doesn’t work, and frankly, we should get rid of judges. You can’t have a court case every time somebody steps foot on our ground.”


About Mary Turck

News Day, written by Mary Turck, analyzes, summarizes, links to, and comments on reports from news media around the world, with particular attention to immigration, education, and journalism. Fragments, also written by Mary Turck, has fiction, poetry and some creative non-fiction. Mary Turck edited TC Daily Planet,, from 2007-2014, and edited the award-winning Connection to the Americas and AMERICAS.ORG, in its pre-2008 version. She is also a recovering attorney and the author of many books for young people (and a few for adults), mostly focusing on historical and social issues.
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