Trump Wants to Deport Pro-Palestine Protesters—and GOP Lawmakers Are Filing Bills to Make It Happen

Collage with Donald Trump on the left in black and white and a pro-Palestine student protest on the right.

Mother Jones; Matt Rourke/AP; John Lamparski/NurPhoto/Zuma

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At a rally in Wildwood, New Jersey on Saturday, former President Donald Trump made many questionable comments.

He called Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg “Fat Alvin.” He claimed migrant children “don’t speak English.” And he said that, if he’s re-elected, he will deport pro-Palestinian, antiwar protesters.

“When I’m president, we will not allow our colleges to be taken over by violent radicals, and if you come here from a violent country and try to bring jihadism, or anti-Americanism, or antisemitism to our campuses, we will immediately deport you. You’ll be out of that school,” Trump said, to the crowd’s cheers. (You can watch the full comments for yourself at the 1:30:41 mark.) 

This is not the first time Trump has made similar promises: Back in the fall, he said he “will implement strong ideological screening for all immigrants,” and that those who “sympathize with jihadists” and “want to abolish Israel…[are] not coming into our country.” He added: “We aren’t bringing in anyone from Gaza.” 

The comments come amid Republican-led efforts to brand all anti-war protesters as supporters of terrorism and a continued push to criminalize protest. 

Last week, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) re-upped an effort he first made last fall to deport protesters who have “endorsed or espoused the terrorist activities of Hamas” or other anti-Israel terrorist organizations. Rubio wrote a letter to the secretaries of the State and Homeland Security departments to initiate “expedited deportation proceedings” for participants in “antisemitism and pro-Hamas protests.” Earlier this month, Rep. Beth Van Duyne (R-Tx.) introduced what her office calls the “Hamas Supporters Have No Home Here Act,” which would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to allow for the deportation of people “charged with any crime related to their participation in pro-terrorism or antisemitism rallies or demonstrations.” 

These efforts seem to ignore the reality on the ground: As my colleagues and I have reported, many protesters and organizers have said they condemn antisemitism and have insisted that gatherings on campuses—including some in which administrators have called the cops—have been peaceful

Some of those on the right condemning all anti-war protesters have gone beyond calling for enforcement. Last month, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) said people “who get stuck behind the pro-Hamas mobs blocking traffic” should “take matters into your own hands to get them out of the way.” (He later claimed he wasn’t endorsing violence.) And earlier this month, Cotton introduced a bill called the “No Bailouts for Campus Criminals Act” that would make anyone convicted of a crime in connection with a campus protest ineligible for student loan relief.

It’s hard not to see these latest measures as more bad faith attempts by the right to criminalize protest, as my colleague nia t. evans has written, and to  dismiss participants as “outside agitators.” But the real danger this time lies in the fact that the presumptive GOP nominee is also in on it—and that the latest efforts fit squarely within his extremist anti-immigrant agenda.