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Trump vows to invoke a wartime law to deport suspected foreign gang members and drug dealers

The former president also said he would expand his travel ban if elected to the White House for a second term.
Former U.S. President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a 2024 presidential campaign rally in Dubuque
Former President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump arrives on stage to speak during a 2024 presidential campaign rally in Dubuque, Iowa, on Wednesday. Scott Morgan / Reuters

DUBUQUE, Iowa — Former President Donald Trump said Wednesday that if re-elected, he would “immediately” invoke a federal law granting himself the unilateral power to detain and deport non-citizens in the United States who are older than 14 years old.

In remarks at a campaign stop, Trump pledged to use the Alien Enemies Act — part of the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 — to target suspected gang members, drug dealers and cartel members. 

“I’ll...invoke immediately the Alien Enemies Act to remove all known or suspected gang members…the drug dealers, the cartel members from the United States, ending the scourge of illegal alien gang violence once and for all,” Trump said from a campaign stage in here in front of more than 1,000 supporters.

Trump put forward his proposal in a speech intended to outline what would amount to his second-term immigration policy — one that foreshadows a greater use of executive branch powers and law enforcement resources, which the president could have a greater hand in directing. 

He also told the crowd that he would also reinstate and “expand” the “travel ban” that he implemented during his first term in the White House. The ban, which President Joe Biden ended on his first day in office, barred most individuals from seven countries — including five Muslim-majority countries — from entering the United States.

The Alien Enemies Act — meant to be a wartime measure — was notably used during World War II. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt invoked it following the bombing of Pearl Harbor to order the government observation and detention of thousands of Japanese, German and Italian nationals. 

The law says a president may order non-citizens “to be apprehended, restrained, secured, and removed as alien enemies” when he or she “makes public proclamation” than an “invasion or predatory incursion is perpetrated, attempted, or threatened against the territory of the United States by any foreign nation.”

A number of Democratic senators and civil rights groups have pushed for the repeal of the Alien Enemies Act.

On Wednesday, Trump said that he would expand his travel ban to “deny entry to all communists and Marxists to the United States.” The Republican front-runner provided no details or parameters for such a proposal. 

Trump also promised to relocate thousands of troops presently stationed overseas to the U.S.-Mexico border.

“We guard other people’s borders, but we don’t guard our own,” said Trump.

He further asserted that a new Trump administration would shift “massive portions” of federal law enforcement — including the FBI, DEA and ATF — into immigration enforcement roles.

Trump also said that he would commit the Navy to establish blockades to ensure fentanyl would not cross into the country by waterways.