Trump Wants to Be ‘Tougher’ on Immigration. Here’s What That Could Mean.

Migrants sit inside the fence of a makeshift detention center in El Paso, Texas. Photo: Sergio Flores/The Washington Post/Getty Images

President Trump, once again, is eager for a fight on immigration. It wouldn’t be his first. Last summer, his administration began ripping families apart at the U.S.-Mexico border in hopes of deterring more Central Americans from migrating to the U.S. A national uproar followed and Trump eventually caved, ending the policy with an executive order. Then, earlier this year, Trump shut down the government in hopes of funding a border wall that would do little to stem the flow of migrants into the U.S. Again, Trump caved, without getting what he wanted.

Now, as migrants head to the U.S. at record numbers, he’s purging top officials at the Department of Homeland Security, including Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, to pursue a “tougher direction” on immigration. Here’s what that could mean:

Separating families

It appears the fissure between Trump and Nielsen was created, in part, by his desire to bring back the policy of separating migrant families at the border and her unwillingness to go along with it (for legal, not moral reasons). NBC News reports that Kevin McAleenan, who is set to take over DHS in an acting role, has not ruled out the return of the cruel policy, with a slight modification:

The policy McAleenan would consider, according to the officials, is known as “binary choice” and would give migrant parents the option between being separated from their children or bringing their children with them into long-term detention.

Under the 1997 Flores settlement, immigrant children aren’t allowed to be held in custody for more than 20 days. Last week, Trump called Flores “a disaster for our country” and the White House has reportedly drafted a regulation to change it. That would open the door to long-term detention of migrant families.

Ending birthright citizenship

An executive order ending birthright citizenship could be coming, according to the New York Times. The long-standing policy means any person born in the U.S. is automatically granted citizenship. Trump first floated this executive order, which would not be constitutional, last October.

Closing the border

The Times reports that Trump is interested in “stronger action to close ports of entry along the Mexican border.” Despite multiple reports that he might close the border in recent weeks, he backed off amid widespread criticism from Republican Party allies and U.S. business interest.

Changing asylum policy

Trump wants asylum seekers to have a harder time getting into the U.S. Axios reports that, under a proposed new policy, DHS would accomplish this by applying “greater rigor and scrutiny” to asylum claims.

The administration’s “metering” policy already limits the number of asylum seekers allowed into the country each day. Several other attempts to change asylum policy have been struck down in federal court. Most recently, a judge blocked the “Remain in Mexico” policy, which requires immigrants seeking asylum to stay in Mexico as they wait for a decision. Under prior policy, they would be released into the U.S. with an immigration court date.

More tent cities

Politico reports that Trump senior adviser Stephen Miller, the enabler of Trump’s most vicious instincts on immigration, is pushing for the construction of tent cities at the border “so that cases can be swiftly resolved — and migrants with non-meritorious claims can be deported.”

What a ‘Tougher Direction’ on Immigration Could Look Like