President-Elect Donald Trump has confirmed that his administration will work to immediately deport or incarcerate as many as 2-to-3 million undocumented immigrants once he takes office. Referencing his plan during a 60 Minutes interview which will air Sunday night on CBS, Trump claimed that “What we are going to do is get the people that are criminal and have criminal records, gang members, drug dealers, where a lot of these people, probably two million, it could be even three million, we are getting them out of our country or we are going to incarcerate.” Those numbers and that framing is essentially what Trump already announced in August, and if you’re wondering how much Trump’s casual estimate of the number of undocumented-immigrant criminals stands up to scrutiny — it doesn’t. In addition, Trump has previously promised that he would deport all of America’s undocumented immigrants, not just the ones with criminal backgrounds.
The president-elect also claimed that his administration would indeed still build his infamous, and by most expert accounts, massively impractical, border wall, and that once the border is “secure,” immigration officials would make a “determination” about the remaining undocumented immigrants. Those would presumably be the people who Trump doesn’t consider criminals, and he explained that “after the border is secure and after everything gets normalized, we’re going to make a determination on the people that they’re talking about who are terrific people, they’re terrific people, but we are gonna make a determination at that.” Trump also indicated that the border wall would not actually be a big beautiful wall he has repeatedly promised, but rather some wall and probably some fencing in certain areas — lining his plan up with a new proposal by congressional Republicans. “I’m very good at this, it’s called construction,” he insisted.
Trump’s post-election remarks regarding his anti-immigration plan are sure to bolster fears that the Trump Administration will indeed carry out mass-deportations of undocumented immigrants, as he had repeatedly promised to do during his presidential campaign. And while there isn’t solid evidence for Trump’s estimation of the number of undocumented-immigrant criminals, his presumption mirrors one of the first inflammatory remarks that Trump made, at the very start of his campaign, when he baselessly implied that Mexico was “sending” a torrent of criminals, rapists, drug dealers, and others who “have lots of problems” to the U.S. Available evidence, in fact, indicates that undocumented immigrants likely commit less crime than native-born Americans.
In an appearance on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan claimed that “We are not planning on erecting a deportation force. Donald Trump is not planning on that.” Ryan added that “We should put people’s minds at ease: That is not what our focus is,” and he echoed Trump in that securing the border remained the GOP’s first priority.
According to the Pew Research Center, there are about 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S., and around two-thirds of them have been living here for a decade or more. The number of Mexican undocumented immigrants in the U.S. has been declining since 2007. At present, American law-enforcement personnel can deport about 400,000 people per year, so even reaching Trump’s initial goal would require enormous additional funding, not to mention additional personnel, and a considerable amount of time, if normal judicial procedures were to be followed.