Inside Project 2025

Democracy Examined

The Topline

The story behind Trump’s immigration plan

In the 1980s, The Heritage Foundation and then-President Ronald Reagan worked together on a sweeping immigration bill that granted amnesty to thousands of undocumented immigrants. Four decades later, the Republican Party and Heritage are working together again on immigration, but amnesty is certainly off the table.

Heritage has drawn up a comprehensive policy plan called “The Project 2025 Presidential Transition Project,” or Project 2025 for short. It “paves the way for an effective conservative administration” around four pillars: a policy agenda, a personnel database, an administration training academy, and a playbook for the first 180 days of the next Republican presidency.

We won’t go into all of the particulars here, but we strongly encourage you to check them out for yourself. In this issue, we’ll take a closer look at what Project 2025 would mean for immigration. —Melissa Amour, Managing Editor

‘Building now for a conservative victory’

If you caught President Biden’s State of the Union address last week, and the Republican response, it’s obvious that the crisis at the border will play a big role in how people will vote in November. In fact, surveys show that immigration is either the top concern or one of the top concerns on voters’ minds.

This should not be a surprise. Illegal border crossings are at all time highs, the court system is completely overwhelmed, and even liberal cities are now saying that the scale of migration is too much to handle. Trump is seeking to capitalize on the disorder, having recently pressured the Senate Republicans to kill a bipartisan border deal.

Trump wants to ride the crisis all the way to the White House and, once there, be the president that defines the future of American immigration policy. So what happens if he wins in 2024? Project 2025 offers some clues.

What You Should Know

Trump has promised to “immediately stop the invasion of our southern border” if he wins a second term. Project 2025 outlines a number of steps to achieve Trump’s goals, which would amount to nothing short of a revolution in American immigration policy. Some of the key steps include:

1. Blocking federal financial aid to American college students if their state permits certain immigrant groups, including Dreamers with legal status, to access in-state tuition.

2. Terminating the legal status of 500,000 Dreamers by eliminating staff time for reviewing and processing renewal applications.

3. Using backlog numbers to trigger the automatic suspension of application intake for large categories of legal immigration.

4. Suspending updates to annual eligible country lists for H-2A and H-2B temporary worker visas, impacting the agricultural, construction, hospitality, and forestry sectors.

5. Barring US citizens from qualifying for federal housing subsidies if they live with anyone who is not a US citizen or legal permanent resident.

6. Forcing states to share driver’s licenses and taxpayer identification information with federal authorities or risk critical funding. —Niskanen Center policy review

But that’s not all. If reelected, Trump would immediately launch “the largest domestic deportation operation in American history.”

“As a model, he points to an Eisenhower-era program known as ‘Operation Wetback,’ using a derogatory slur for Mexican migrants. The operation used military tactics to round up and remove migrant workers, sometimes transporting them in dangerous conditions that led to some deaths.” —Philip Bump, Washington Post political analyst

The plan would completely upend the US immigration system, raising questions about whether the policies would even stand up in court.

How We Got Here

In 2016, after the failure of the last major bipartisan congressional immigration reform push, Trump ran on a draconian immigration platform.

“Number One: We will build an impenetrable physical wall along the Southern Border. We will use the best technology, including above-and below-ground sensors, towers, aerial surveillance, and manpower to supplement the wall, find and dislocate tunnels, and keep out the criminal cartels, and Mexico will pay for the wall. … Number Two: End catch-and-release. Under my administration, anyone who illegally crosses the border will be detained until they are removed out of our country.” —Donald Trump, August 31, 2016

It wasn’t as easy to accomplish as Trump thought. In the end, he failed to achieve what he promised as a candidate.

“President Trump entered the White House with the goal of eliminating illegal immigration, but [he] oversaw a virtual collapse in interior immigration enforcement and the stabilization of the illegal immigrant population. Thus, Trump succeeded in reducing legal immigration, but failed to eliminate illegal immigration. —Alex Nowrasteh of the CATO Institute

While immigration policies have changed under President Biden, the situation at the border has deteriorated. In December, migrant encounters surged to their highest levels ever. Democrats in areas where large numbers of migrants are settling are sounding increasingly like Republicans.

“The federal government’s lack of intervention and coordination at the border has created an untenable situation.” —Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker of Illinois in a letter to Biden

“There is no more room in New York.” —Democratic Mayor Eric Adams of New York City

For voters too, immigration is now a top political issue, even among Democrats.

“Both partisan coalitions are broadly dissatisfied with the government’s handling of the border situation. About nine-in-ten (89%) Republicans say the government is doing a bad job, including 71% who say it is doing very badly. Nearly three-quarters (73%) of Democrats also rate the government’s performance negatively.” —Pew Research Center

With voter discontent on the issue at a high, the minds behind Project 2025 see this political moment as the perfect time to advance their agenda.

“The actions of liberal politicians in Washington have created a desperate need and unique opportunity for conservatives to start undoing the damage the Left has wrought and build a better country for all Americans in 2025.” —Project 2025 Team in Michigan Advance

What People Are Saying

Trump in 2024 is even more direct about immigration than he was in 2016, as he refers to migrants as ‘vermin’ who are ‘poisoning the blood of our country.’ It plays very well to a certain crowd and is priming the pump for Project 2025.

“This is all very well thought through, very organized, it’s not chaotic, it’s not anarchy, they’ve known exactly what they’re going to do. They have people at the second and third tier levels. This is why we talk so much about Project 2025, that this is where the work gets done. … Mass deportations are going to start, if you don’t like that, then don’t vote for President Trump.” —Steve Bannon, former adviser to Donald Trump

And while most may not agree with Project 2025, Americans by and large agree that something must be done to fix the country’s broken immigration system.

“This is an issue where voters are looking for solutions… They’re not totally dogmatic about what those solutions are, but they want solutions.” —Michael Bocian, Democratic pollster

Immigration represents a serious challenge to Biden in this election, but Project 2025 may prove to be a motivator for Democrats.

“[Project 2025 is] highly trained, well-funded political operatives dedicated to winning in November and remaking America in a white nationalist image. They’ve spent the past two years putting together a plan to do just that, setting the highest stakes imaginable for this election. We have to rise to that challenge.” —Antjuan Seawright, Democratic political strategist

If Trump does return to power, could his administration realistically enact the Project 2025 policies? Not if Congress and the courts play their appropriate role as a check on executive power. And that, of course, is the most critical ‘if’ of all.

“Some of these [Project 2025] visions, they do start to just bleed into some kind of authoritarian fantasies where the president won the election, so he’s in charge, so everyone has to do what he says—and that’s just not the system of government we live under.” —Philip Wallach, senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute

  • Inside the Heritage Foundation’s Plans for ‘Institutionalizing Trumpism’ —The New York Times
  • “Expose Project 2025” Campaign Reveals Extremists, Highlights Fringe Agenda —Accountable US
  • Trump Economist Plots Overhaul of US Treasury —The Guardian
  • Online Manifesto Reveals Project 2025’s Link to a Coordinated ‘Christian Nationalism Project’ —Bucks County Beacon
  • Beg to Differ: The Threat of Christian Supremacism —The Bulwark

  • Ta-ta, TikTok?: House Passes TikTok Bill that Could Ban App in the US, Spawning Senate Support —The Washington Post
  • Partial Dismissal: Judge Drops Some Trump Georgia Election Subversion Charges But Leaves Most of the Case Intact —CNN
  • Roll Control: Are Mass Purges the New Voter Suppression? —Brennan Center
  • Food for Thought: What People Think Would Improve Democracy in 24 Countries —Pew Research Center
  • Give This a Listen: Democracy and Freedom —The Dispatch

  • Germany: Right-Wing Party AfD Appeals ‘Suspected’ Extremist Status —Deutsche Welle
  • Haiti: Marines Sent in to Shore up Security at US Embassy in Haiti —NBC News
  • India: Concerns over Upcoming Vote in World’s Largest Democracy —The Harvard Gazette
  • Russia: Russia Is Ready to Use Nuclear Weapons if Threatened, Putin Tells State Media —Associated Press
  • United Kingdom: New UK Extremism Policy Raises Concerns over Free Speech —The New York Times

Imagine Putin contacts Trump and tells him he will give him sites not only in downtown Moscow to build a ‘really, really beautiful’ hotel, but also to build a luxurious resort on the Black Sea, where Russian billionaires can tie up their mega-yachts and lose millions gambling at roulette and table games every night.

The “catch”?

Not much, really.

All Putin wants in exchange is a total cut-off of aid to Ukraine: military, medical, humanitarian, or economic…

…but wait, there’s more!

As well as the names and locations of every Western covert operative in Russia, which of course would lead to their immediate murder, and cost America valuable intelligence.

But, considering how much Trump would want that hotel site in Moscow, and a gambling resort on the Black Sea, wouldn’t that be an offer…in the words of a fictional New Yorker Trump surely admires…

Trump couldn’t refuse? —Jim V., New York

Hey Topline readers, you remember the drill. We want to hear your reactions to today’s stories. We’ll include some of your replies in this space in our next issue of The ToplineClick here to share your take, and don’t forget to include your name and state. We’re looking forward to hearing from you!