A surprising number of people, Trump supporters and non-Trump supporters alike, have scoffed at the idea that if elected, Trump might establish internment camps, punish women, and crack down on free speech. But this isn’t necessarily the stuff of dystopian paranoia. This is simply the worst-case scenario based on Trump’s own promises and proclamations. The following imagines America’s potential future—based on the specific actions Donald Trump has threatened to take against American values and democracy.
January 21, 2017
President Trump was sworn in yesterday. Today, his first order of business is an executive order banning all Muslims from entering the United States. The measure includes tourists, visiting students, workers and even non-citizen family members of United States citizens. Universities are furious to be losing an estimated 100,000 students per year and the business community has announced it’s going to pour money into ads bashing Trump for this new policy. It turns out President Trump was irked by TV pundits saying no one should worry. His pride hurt, he says he has no choice but to follow through.
February 5, 2017
Even Trump seems caught off guard by how much antagonism his policy has spawned in the Middle East. Today, news leaks that President Trump called former Vice President Dick Cheney for advice, but Cheney states publicly that even his wars and torture practices didn’t make the region hate America nearly as much as Trump has now. The CIA reports that the volume of terror chatter and threats against the United States is already higher than ever before.
Lawsuits have been filed in every court imaginable, arguing that Trump’s ban constitutes unconstitutional religious discrimination. The case will probably wind its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, though how that will be decided now that Ted Cruz has filled Justice Scalia’s seat is anyone’s guess. Before his recess appointment by President Trump a few days ago, Cruz promoted himself as a constitutional defender of religious freedom but was noncommittal on whether that included Muslims.
Meanwhile, 10% of international flights into the United States have already been canceled, which is partly due to some of the world’s 1.4 billion Muslims canceling their travel plans but also the many other people from around the world who are protesting President Trump’s policy.
February 14, 2017
In a speech riddled with declarations of love for America, President Trump announces a new executive order requiring all Muslims in the United States—including U.S.-born citizens—to carry mandatory national ID cards at all times. The cards are orange, with little bar codes that police can scan to make sure folks are who they say they are. Any Muslims caught without an ID are fined for the first offense. But after that, they could face jail time.
In a press gaggle after the announcement, Trump—wearing a new gold and diamond-emblazoned pin of the nation on his lapel—brushes off concerns about civil liberties or echoes of Nazi Germany and compares the ID cards to membership cards at Costco. The White House then revokes the credentials of the reporter who had asked the question in the first place.
March 9, 2017
President Trump announces that he will be unilaterally pulling out of or revoking all current trade deals, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership and NAFTA. Actually, he has Vice President Nikki Haley make the announcement. It feels like a relief to many voters—none of whom thought he would really do any of the extreme things he’d campaigned on but support this particular set of moves.
April 1, 2017
No longer allowing press conferences in the White House on grounds that reporters’ questions were “unfair,” President Trump tweets that he would be starting to round up and deport the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants today. Then a few minutes later he tweets, “April Fools!”
April 2, 2017
Trump tweets again: “No really, today is the day. #DeportationNation”
President Trump announces he would deport Muslim undocumented immigrants first. It is, after all, easier—they already had the ID cards and the police could easily tell which Muslim-looking people were or were not citizens. In the face of those shouting about civil liberties and American values, President Trump boasts loudly about the business-like efficiency of his new initiative. "It's like barcodes at the supermarket," Trump said. "Now we can easily check them out."
June 10, 2017
Trump was right: The combination of mandatory ID cards and mass deportations is so efficient, he’s expanding both. And apparently anticipating that even Justice Cruz might deem the program unconstitutional if it applied only to Muslims and Latinos, President Trump issues an executive order requiring all Americans to carry the national ID cards on them at all times. This includes even small children, who will wear them on lanyards displayed around their necks. Because, after all, some of those children could be undocumented, too.
July 4, 2017
The raids are widespread now. In just the last week, churches and mosques and office parks and football games and movie theaters have all been raided. Today, a teenage boy’s birthday party at Dave & Busters in Omaha, Nebraska, is raided by immigration officers, and a Latino kid holding the toy gun from the video game he was playing is shot and killed by ICE.
Almost nowhere seems safe from the raids. It turns out that 11 million people don’t just get easily, voluntarily rounded up. They try to hide. And lots of decent Americans try to help them, underground railroad-style.
September 5, 2017
Now Trump’s forces are conducting raids literally everywhere. In shopping malls and kindergarten classrooms and grocery stores. Thousands of American citizens have been arrested and charged with helping immigrants, a new crime President Trump created a few weeks ago that mandates a minimum prison sentence of five years.
Plenty of citizens have also been mistakenly detained because they didn’t have their ID cards on them during the raids. Mostly they’re Latinos and Muslims. The agents seem to let the paler people go. The families and civil liberties lawyers of the wrongfully detained have to fight for months to get them released. Many small communities are pooling their savings to create legal defense funds for those wrongfully detained.
As for the actual undocumented immigrants being rounded up, they’re not getting any legal help whatsoever.
September 22, 2017
There were rumors all summer but no one believed them. Logically, there was no way to round up millions of people and not put them somewhere. But no one knew exactly what was happening and where it was happening. Until today. The New York Times releases a report of 2,400 “facilities” around the country in which undocumented immigrants have been detained pending deportation. Apparently still a fan of eminent domain, President Trump has been seizing every space he can find—from warehouses to Girl Scout camps—and turning them into makeshift detention centers. The conditions of the overcrowded camps are bad and worsening. The Times reports that many of the camps lack sufficient food and clean water and basic medical care.
Instead of responding directly to the New York Times’ reporting, President Trump—who pushed through drastic changes to libel law during his first month in office—announces he will be suing the paper. He also permanently blocks the New York Times’ calls to the White House.
January 16, 2018
It’s been a long, dark, violent winter. The media outlets still reporting on the deportations—all of which have now been blocked from calling the White House—tell story after story of families ripped apart in the middle of the night and the still worsening conditions in the internment camps.
But there is now an organized resistance. It’s called the Mockingjay Alliance. Chapters have been self-organizing and springing up all around the country over the last year but are now gaining widespread attention. People are gathering secretly in church basements and two-car garages, following specific instructions to make sure they aren’t being followed by the police. Members are also careful not to hint at what they’re doing on social media, though that’s easier now since President Trump has cracked down on Twitter and Facebook, claiming they impede national security.
May 1, 2018
The resistance is growing stronger. In some cases, whole cities and states have joined the response. In New York City, Mayor Jay-Z simultaneously ends the practice of police in the city’s public schools and sets up temporary housing in public school gymnasiums. In California, Governor Shonda Rhimes declares the entire state a sanctuary for immigrant families and bars federal agents from enforcements within state borders.
Meanwhile, President Trump is suing everyone imaginable but massive donations to legal defense funds have poured in from Hollywood and Silicon Valley. Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan donate half of their charitable funds to bolster sanctuary efforts that are taxing California’s state budget because immigrants from all over the United States are desperately trying to get to California, or the other sanctuary jurisdictions. So President Trump’s forces are patrolling major transportation routes—as are “people’s militias” formed by his supporters. Militia members have also chased down and beaten suspected Mockingjay Alliance members.
July 4, 2018
To mark Independence Day, President Trump signs the Punish Abortion Act of 2018. He had backed off his assertion during the campaign that there would be “some form of punishment” for women who had abortions. But as conservatives increasingly talk about running a primary opponent against Trump in 2020, Trump feels pressure to win over the religious right. So in a Hail Mary move, President Trump enacts health regulations pertaining to abortion clinics, the same sort of restrictions that the Supreme Court had failed to rule against when it lacked a tie-breaking ninth justice during the 2016 election after Scalia died.
Trump’s regulations go further than even the extreme restrictions in Texas, which President Trump says don’t do enough to “protect women from themselves.” Studies have projected that all but eight abortion clinics nationwide will close down in the coming months. And already, back-alley abortions are on the rise.
November 6, 2018
It’s Election Day. The Democrats are expected to sweep the House and Senate. Even Republican candidates are campaigning on an “Impeach Trump” pledge. After all, Trump has been better than his word and has done most everything he said he would. But the result? The economy is worse than before, and more people are suffering. Voters across the board are even angrier now than in the 2016 election.
Still, Trump supporters got what they voted for. Except for the wall he promised he would build and get Mexico to pay for. President Trump did freeze the remittances immigrants were sending back once Mexico refused to pony up billions for the construction, even after $25 billion in money transfers were blocked by the U.S. government. Predictably, the Mexican economy has taken a giant hit. Two years later, there’s still no wall, because such a wall, which would constitute the largest public infrastructure program since the creation of the American highway system, is a financial and logistical nightmare, and neither Mexico nor the United States can afford it now that both of our economies are even worse off than before. Trump’s policies have not only devastated the Mexican economy—they’ve driven down wages even further in the United States increasing the demand for low-wage immigrant labor.
So no wall, but a lot of irony: The United States has more Mexican immigrants than ever.
Illustrations by Andrés Guzmán
Sally Kohn is a CNN political commentator, essayist and activist. Learn more at sallykohn.com.