On 60 Minutes Donald Trump said that he wants to immediately deport 2 million to 3 million undocumented immigrants with criminal records. He added that he would focus on those immigrants who are in the country illegally and are “gang members, drug dealers” or have other criminal convictions.
He said there are “a lot of these people, probably 2 million, it could be even 3 million.”
We have questioned a number of things, including the size of that claim, as well as how he plans to effect that change.
What is immediately clear is that it is not clear where Trump came up with those numbers. FiveThirtyEight, citing the Department of Homeland Security, reports, “There are roughly 1.9 million non-citizen immigrants who have been convicted of crimes and are subject to deportation — what the government calls ‘removable criminal aliens.’”
But that total is not just undocumented immigrants, it includes those who are in this country legally.
Citing the Migration Policy Institute’s figure of 11 million immigrants in the country without proper documentation, they believe that only 820,000 of them have criminal records. Pew Research Center has come up with a similar 11 million figure on the number of immigrants.
FiveThirtyEight cites, “A recent report from the Congressional Research Service estimated that at the end of 2013, there were more than 140,000 non-citizen immigrants in local, state and federal prisons and jails.”
The question still remains how he plans to remove those individuals from the country. His campaign rhetoric talked about “deportation force” but there is likely not the funding or infrastructure for such a policy.
FiveThirtyEight notes that “the policy that Trump outlined Sunday is similar to the one President Obama pursued in his first term.” In his first term, President Obama “prioritized deporting undocumented immigrants with criminal convictions, in some cases even for comparatively minor violations such as traffic offenses or shoplifting.”
Deportations under Obama soared, with 400,000 in 2012. Critics of Obama are quick to point out that, under his administration, a record number of people were deported.
However, he has shifted his policy during his second term to focus on those with more serious crimes and repeat offenses. Indeed, deportation fell to below 250,000 by 2015. But in his first six years, they were over 350,000.
FiveThirtyEight, citing Randy Capps of the Migration Policy Institute, reports that “the Homeland Security Department still has the resources it had in Obama’s first term. From a practical standpoint, then, it wouldn’t be hard for the government to deport 400,000 or even 500,000 people per year — meaning that Trump could credibly deport 2 million people during his first term without requiring additional resources or authorization from Congress.”
Many of these would be “convicted criminals.”
“It would not be hard to get up to 2 million in four years, and most of them would be quote-unquote criminals,” Mr. Capps said, “although he added that many of those criminal convictions would be for relatively minor crimes.”
Or would it? While it is true that Obama deported 400,000 in 2012, of those just over half had criminal convictions. And, even with the high levels of deportations under Obama, the number of undocumented immigrants in this country remained fairly stable.
That suggests that if it is Trump’s goal to reduce the number of undocumenteds in this country he is going to have to do more than a more robust form of the Obama policy from earlier in that administration.
—David M. Greenwald reporting