In his first sit-down interview since being elected President of the United States, Donald Trump outlined how he will begin to address his top issue as a candidate: undocumented immigration.
Speaking to CBS’ “60 Minutes” in an interview that aired on Sunday, Trump said that as soon as he takes office, he plans to rapidly increase the pace of deportations in the US — surpassing even President Obama’s record number of immigration expulsions.
“What we are going to do is get the people that are criminal and have criminal records, gang members, drug dealers,” Trump said, estimating their number at between two and three million people.
“We are getting them out of our country or we are going to incarcerate,” he added.
Since taking office in 2009, President Obama has deported more than 2.5 million people, more than any other president in US history. Despite this heavy-handed enforcement, Republicans have cast the administration as being lax on immigration. They’ve pointed to executive orders issued by the President, granting temporary deportation relief to non-citizen immigrants who came to the country at a young age, and have no criminal record.
A review of recent deportations, however, shows that Obama has continued to deport high numbers of individuals without a criminal background. The Marshall Project examined more than 300,000 recent deportations, and discovered that more than 40 percent of individuals had no serious crime record.
Trump is now seeking to shatter President Obama’s deportation mark early in his administration.
But according to an analysis by The Migration Policy Institute, the President-elect’s numbers don’t add up. The non-partisan think tank estimates there are only about 820,000 undocumented immigrants living in the US with a criminal record — well short of Trump’s stated three million figure.
In a statement to The Huffington Post, Chris Newman, the legal director for the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, referred to Trump’s plans as an appeal to “xenophobes” in his party’s base. He added that “the US Constitution will be a hedge against any plan President-elect Trump has when it comes to deportations.”
As for the remaining millions of undocumented immigrants that call the US home, Trump didn’t disclose his plans for them yet. At times during the campaign trail, the real estate mogul suggested he would raise a deportation force to eject all immigrants who came to the US illegally. He appeared to soften his stance on Sunday.
“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,” Trump stated.
During that same interview, Trump also appeared to hedge on one of his main promise of building a wall on the Southern US border. On the campaign trail, he repeatedly called for a “big, beautiful wall,” but on Sunday Trump suggested a fence would do the trick, too.
“For certain areas, I would [accept a fence]. But for certain areas a wall is more appropriate,” he said. “I’m very good at this. It’s called construction.”