Analysis: How Many Would Trump Deport


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

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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9 thoughts on “Analysis: How Many Would Trump Deport”

    1. hpierce

      Wonder if he’ll include those who came on a visa, with a “no work” provision then got employed, as ex. ‘model’… subsequently getting citizenship (under false pretenses?  Already guilty of a technical crime?)

  1. quielo

    He has another challenge not mentioned. many of the deportees home countries are reluctant to accept criminals back. Chief among these is of course Cuba but many countries are just as happy to see these people gone and will make repatriation difficult.

  2. WesC

    According to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, from 2008 through 2015 they removed 2,878,672 illegals, of which 59% had a prior conviction of a criminal offense.  Obama is on track to beat Bush’s 8 yr record of 2 million by a pretty significant margin.

    1. tribeUSA

      As I understand it; the higher numbers under Obama are due to a change in the accounting: until around 2009 or 2010 (I forget exactly); those immigrants who were caught near the border and shipped back into Mexico were not counted as ‘deported’, but instead were listed under some sort of ‘apprehended and returned’ category. After about 2009/2010; such detainees were all classified as ‘deported’–this way the Obama regime could look strict and vigilant on paper by having a high ‘deportation’ record; whereas actually the higher numbers relative to Bush are due to the change in accounting procedure.

  3. Tia Will

    So questions to ponder.

    What is the difference between deportations done under Obama and those promised to be done under our new president elect ?  Is one set of deportations “good” and the other “bad” because of who did the deporting ?

    1. WesC

      The answer is that politics has become so partisan and toxic that anything done by the opposition is by definition bad and fought tooth and nail even if it fits perfectly with the opposition party platform.

      I think we desperately need a third party.

      1. WesC

        Correction:    The answer is that politics has become so partisan and toxic that anything done by the opposition is by definition bad and fought tooth and nail even if it fits perfectly with the non-opposition party platform.

  4. Topcat

    I wonder why we never see the “Raise the minimum wage” folks advocating for deportation of illegal aliens?  It seems to me that by eliminating the supply of cheap labor, employers would have to raise wages to attract workers.

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