William Diaz-Castro is about to become one of the “criminal illegal immigrants” whom Donald Trump campaigned against for 17 months—and whom, as president-elect, he now plans to deport immediately.
“What we are going to do is get the people that are criminal and have criminal records—gang members, drug dealers, we have a lot of these people, probably 2 million, it could be even 3 million—we are getting them out of our country,” Trump said in an interview on 60 Minutes four days after his victory. “Or,” he added, “we are going to incarcerate.”
This statement had the appearance of softening his earlier position; at times during the campaign, Trump threatened to deport every one of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants who live in the United States. But the impact on families and communities of immediately removing even 3 million people would be cataclysmic. That’s equal to the population of the state of Mississippi, and more people than Barack Obama removed during his entire presidency.
The people Trump says he will target—those “bringing drugs,” “bringing crime,” who are “rapists,” as he put it in the speech that launched his campaign—sound terribly scary. The idea that there are millions of them is quickly seeping into our political discourse as though it were fact. In reality, any effort to deport 3 million “criminal” immigrants will first require branding law-abiding people as criminals—a process that’s been unfolding across presidential administrations stretching back to Bill Clinton’s, but that Trump plans to escalate massively.
This is how it happened for Diaz-Castro: On March 22, the soft-spoken 30-year-old construction worker and his partner, Linda Guzman, 29, who works the day shift at a laundromat, were awakened by the sound of urgent knocking on the door of their two-bedroom apartment in New Orleans. Their 3-year-old son, Willie, was asleep in a bed beside them; a friend was spending the night in the second bedroom. Before Diaz-Castro could get out of bed and dress, his friend opened the door and found five armed Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in black jackets. Documents say they were conducting a “knock and talk,” the name ICE gives to its home-based roundups. The friend let the agents in without asking if they had a warrant (they did not).