What Trump’s vow to deport 3 million illegals would mean
WASHINGTON—President-elect Donald Trump’s promise to deport up to 3 million immigrants who have committed crimes suggested that he would dramatically step up removals of both people in the United States illegally and those with legal status.
If carried out, the plan potentially would require raids by a vastly larger federal immigration force to hunt down these immigrants and send them out of the country.
Addressing the issue in an interview broadcast on Sunday on the CBS program “60 Minutes,” Trump adopted a softer tone on immigrants than he did during his campaign, when he called many of them rapists and criminals.
He instead referred to them as “terrific people,” saying they would be dealt with only after the border had been secured and criminals deported.
But by placing the number of people he aims to turn out of the country as high as 3 million, Trump raised questions about which immigrants he planned to target for deportation and how he could achieve removals at that scale.
“If he wants to deport 2-3 million people, he’s got to rely on tactics that will divide communities and create fear throughout the country,” said Kevin Appleby, the senior director of international migration policy at the Center for Migration Studies of New York.
“He would have to conduct a sweep, or raids or tactics such as those, to reach the numbers he wants to reach. It would create a police state, in which they would have to be aggressively looking for people,” he said.
The details are crucial to understanding the approach of a president-elect who centered his campaign on a promise to build a border wall and deport lawbreakers.
On Monday, US President Barack Obama said he would urge Trump to consider leaving in place his executive actions that have shielded from deportation immigrants brought to the United States illegally as children.
A look at the numbers
Asked on “60 Minutes” whether he would seek to deport “millions and millions of undocumented immigrants,” Trump said his priority would be to remove “people that are criminal and have criminal records.”
“What we are going to do is get the people that are criminal and have criminal records—gang members, drug dealers, we have a lot of these people, probably 2 million, it could be even 3 million. We are getting them out of our country or we are going to incarcerate,” Trump said. “But we’re getting them out of our country, they’re here illegally.”
The Obama administration has estimated that 1.9 million “removable criminal aliens” are in the United States.
That number includes people who hold green cards for legal permanent residency and those who have temporary visas. It also includes people who have been convicted of nonviolent crimes such as theft, not just those found guilty of felonies or gang-related violence.
“They certainly have that many to start,” said Jessica M. Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, a group that supports reduced immigration.
But even if Trump’s numbers are correct—and many immigration activists dispute them—it is not clear Trump could carry out those deportations quickly without violating due process.
In many cases, convicts would have to go through immigration courts before they could be deported.
Those courts are overwhelmed with huge backlogs, so obtaining deportation orders from judges can take many months—if not many years.
Thousands of immigrants are serving jail sentences that under current law cannot be curtailed.
Resistance from cities
If Trump seeks to revive programs of close cooperation between local police and federal immigration authorities, he is likely to encounter legal challenges and resistance from dozens of cities and counties that have curtailed or rejected cooperation.
Trump has said he would cut off federal funding for cities that refuse to help federal agents detain unauthorized immigrants.
During his campaign, he highlighted terrible crimes by immigrants who he said had escaped detection because of protective policies.
At a news conference in Chicago on Monday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a Democrat, sought to ease fears of deportation and harassment as he reiterated Chicago’s status as a sanctuary city for immigrants.
“It is important for families that are anxious, it is important for children and adolescents that are unsure because of Tuesday, to understand the city of Chicago is your home,” Emanuel said. “You are always welcome in this city.”
Cook County, where Chicago is, has adopted an especially restrictive policy on ties between police and federal agents.
Emanuel encouraged immigrants to call a hotline for legal advice, and said Chicago would quickly set up a municipal identification program to allow undocumented immigrants access to city services.
Mayor Betsy Hodges of Minneapolis was defiant. “I will continue to stand by and fight for immigrants regardless of President-elect Trump’s threats,” she said.
“If police officers were to do the work of ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement), it would harm our ability to keep people safe and solve crimes,” she said.
Mayor Ras Baraka of Newark, said the city’s protections would not change.
In California, lawmakers in a legislature dominated by Democrats rejected Trump’s numbers and plans.
“It is erroneous and profoundly irresponsible to suggest that up to 3 million undocumented immigrants living in America are dangerous criminals,” said Kevin de León, the president pro tempore of the Senate.
He said Trump’s figures were “a thinly veiled pretense for a catastrophic policy of mass deportation,” and he told immigrants, “the State of California stands squarely behind you.” —NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE
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