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4 things to know about Trump’s plan to crack down on illegal immigration

Thousands of demonstrators march through downtown to City Hall in one of several May Day marches and rallies in southern California and in at least 75 cities nationwide.
Thousands of demonstrators march through downtown to City Hall in one of several May Day marches and rallies in southern California and in at least 75 cities nationwide.
David McNew/Getty Images

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Immigration was a key part of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, and many have wondered whether he’d make good on his deportation plans, as well as the promise to build a Mexico-funded wall along the U.S. border.

In an interview with “60 Minutes” over the weekend, Trump told Lesley Stahl that his administration is still set on building a border wall, though some parts of it would actually be a fence, and that he wants to immediately deport 2 to 3 million undocumented immigrants from the country.

“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,” Trump said.

AirTalk’s Larry Mantle sat down with Ted Hesson, a reporter covering immigration for POLITICO, to break down Trump’s stance on immigration. Here are 4 takeaways:

1. Trump's estimate that there are 2 to 3 million illegal immigrants who have criminal backgrounds is high

Ted Hesson: The estimate of 2 to 3 million is definitely high, especially if you're talking about undocumented immigrants. There was one report by the Department of Homeland Security that said there could be roughly 1.9 million deportable immigrants in total and that was in 2013. But that figure also included green card holders who had previously been convicted of a crime.

2. Practically, carrying out these deportations could be difficult, especially in the case of undocumented immigrants who committed crimes many years ago

TH: There'd be huge challenges because you're talking about people who may have really established lives in the U.S. at this point. Perhaps this conviction is decades in the past and they work in their community... they have families here, they have children here... Practically, not only just tracking the people down but then apprehending them could involve going to homes, it could involve going to places of work. It just seems like a huge, huge undertaking, the way he's outlined it here.

3. Border security is Trump's first step, and it's nothing new  

TH: [Trump]'s talking about border security to begin with, and that's something President Obama has also focused on.

4. Trump could carry onward with Obama's policies, which also established priorities for deportation

TH: The Obama administration has prioritized people who've recently entered the country and people who've committed certain types of crimes, so in a way president-elect Trump could carry forward those Obama policies and enact them with more vigor, as he said...Under President Obama there were priorities for deportation and yes, under the top level categories it focused on people with felonies or with multiple misdemeanors. But those priorities actually extend fairly broadly and in the lower level categories for prioritization are people who are just in the country and have removal orders for deportation. So when you do hear by the Obama administration that their deportations are meeting priorities, those priorities are fairly broad.


Ted Hesson, reporter covering immigration for POLITICO; he tweets @tedhesson