Utah Rep. Celeste Maloy endorses Trump’s plan for mass detention and deportation of migrants

Congress recently approved funding more detention beds, which Maloy says will be a key part of Trump’s immigrant crackdown.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Rep. Celeste Maloy, talking to delegates before the Davis County GOP Lincoln Day Dinner in Layton in February 2024, has endorsed Donald Trump's plan to detain and deport migrants.

Rep. Celeste Maloy has seemingly endorsed Donald Trump’s plans to round up and deport migrants if he returns to the White House in 2025.

During an interview on a podcast hosted by Tooele County GOP Chair Holly Rabanne, the Utah Republican was asked about her vote in favor of the $1.2 trillion bipartisan spending package passed by Congress late last month. Maloy pointed to a provision that boosted the number of detention beds for Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“Even when we pick people up, we don’t have anywhere to hold them,” Maloy said. “That’s what the detention beds are about, a place to hold them.”

She then added that increasing the number of detention beds would pay off in a future Trump administration.

“This bill is going to tee up some of the things that President Trump’s going to want to do next year,” Maloy said, “like being able to actually pick people up and hold them. We have to have beds by then.”

The Utah representative was referring to plans by Trump and his allies to target immigrants with a military-style mass roundup and deportation, which the GOP front-runner has promised would be “the largest domestic deportation operation in American history.”

Part of those plans include holding detainees in mass deportation camps.

When Trump was first elected in 2016, even though Republicans had control of the House and Senate, Maloy said, they wasted time trying to put their policy goals into action. If Trump wins in 2024, she said, they won’t make the same mistake.

“We spent a lot of time getting things planned and put in place and getting them up and running, and we used a lot of our runway just figuring out what we wanted to do and how we wanted to do it,” Maloy said. “We’re trying to be smarter this time and have some of the runway built so that he (Trump) can just take off and get things going instead of spending the first 24 months trying to convince everybody that’s the right plan and trying to get the pieces in place.”

Maloy’s office declined to comment further when contacted by The Salt Lake Tribune.

Utah Rep. Angela Romero, D-Salt Lake City, said Tuesday she was troubled by Maloy’s seeming embrace of Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric.

“It’s unfortunate we’re dehumanizing people who are looking for a better life for their family,” Romero said. “This is not about policy; this is about politics.”

Romero, who is the current president of the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators, said comments like Maloy’s about rounding up immigrants are even more alarming since most of the Democratic lawmaker’s constituents are people of color.

“I’m worried about anyone who is of Hispanic origin,” Romero said. “I hear the rhetoric and fear that people who look like me will be targeted. The panic and fear this type of rhetoric brings turn people against each other.”

The first-term House member is part of a growing number of Republicans in Congress who have voiced support for Trump’s immigration agenda if voters return him to the Oval Office.

Maloy also said during the podcast interview that border security is a top priority for her and House Republicans this year. In February, she joined her GOP colleagues in impeaching Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

“We’ve said it’s border, border, border. That is the issue for us,” Maloy said. “We have got to get control of the border. We impeached the secretary (Mayorkas), and that didn’t change anything.”

In February, the Senate voted down a comprehensive national security border reform package negotiated among Senate Democratic and Republican leaders and the White House. The proposal included changes to the nation’s asylum system and created a procedure allowing the president to effectively shut down the border, along with aid for Ukraine and Israel. Most Republicans turned against the proposal after Trump harshly criticized the deal.