On Dec. 18, 2023, a post on X claimed former U.S. President Donald Trump said that if he were reelected as president in 2024, he would round up millions of undocumented immigrants in detention camps and deport them.
The post was shared by supporters of Trump's Democratic rival, President Joe Biden.
During his campaign speeches in December 2023, Trump did call for mass deportations of undocumented immigrants, though he used a range of incendiary language to describe the people who came across U.S. borders. While Trump did not go into details in his speeches, a New York Times investigation found that his plans include rounding up large numbers of migrants and creating giant detention camps.
Trump was speaking in Reno, Nevada, on Dec. 17, 2023, while campaigning for the 2024 presidential election. He called for mass deportations at the 8:25 mark in the livestream below:
When referring to migrants, Trump described them as "coming in from prisons and mental institutions," adding “many are terrorists," "illegal aliens," "cartel members," "drug dealers," and used incendiary language that doubled down on his history of anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies.
Trump said (18:17 mark), “On my first day back in the White House I will terminate every open border policy of the Biden administration and I will invoke the Alien Enemies Act to remove all known or suspected gang members, drug dealers or cartel members from the United States, ending the scourge of illegal alien gang violence once and for all.”
Just a few days prior, on Dec. 16, 2023, Trump held a campaign rally in New Hampshire, where he said undocumented immigrants are "poisoning the blood of our country." He added that such people are "pouring in" to the U.S. from "all over the world." He used language that critics described as xenophobic. His speeches echoed his previous rhetoric against migrants from Latin American countries, particularly Mexico.
A November 2023 New York Times investigation found that Trump was planning “an extreme expansion” of his first-term immigration policies, including rounding up undocumented people in the United States and putting them in detention camps before expelling them from the country.
The report said:
To ease the strain on ICE detention facilities, Mr. Trump wants to build huge camps to detain people while their cases are processed and they await deportation flights. And to get around any refusal by Congress to appropriate the necessary funds, Mr. Trump would redirect money in the military budget, as he did in his first term to spend more on a border wall than Congress had authorized.
Several Trump advisers spoke to the Times anonymously for this story, but Stephen Miller, who advised Trump closely on immigration in his first term and still works with him, confirmed the strategy, telling the Times that these steps rely on existing statutes:
[...] while the Trump team would likely seek a revamp of immigration laws, the plan was crafted to need no new substantive legislation. And while acknowledging that lawsuits would arise to challenge nearly every one of them, he portrayed the Trump team’s daunting array of tactics as a “blitz” designed to overwhelm immigrant-rights lawyers.
Miller acknowledged the detention camps on the record, saying they would likely be built “on open land in Texas near the border.” He said the military would construct the camps under the authority of the Department of Homeland Security, and that they would be used to primarily detain single adults.
Trump had made similar comments in September 2023, saying he would carry out "the largest domestic deportation operation in American history.” He also said he would be, “Following the Eisenhower Model” for such deportations, referencing a 1954 campaign to round up and expel Mexican migrants named for an ethnic slur—Operation Wetback.
We should note that during Trump's first term in office, he expanded an already large immigration-detention system of four family detention centers that included facilities for children and around 200 adult facilities.
In sum, in December 2023 speeches, Trump did call for mass deportations and emphasized that such migrants come from all over the world, using rhetoric that echoed past speeches. Furthermore, reporting confirms that there are indeed plans for a future Trump administration to build huge detention camps to hold migrants.