Don’t act so shocked at Trump’s plans to deport 3 million illegal immigrants – Obama has deported 2.5 million

The outgoing President – or Deporter in Chief, as some immigration groups have labelled him – has removed more undocumented migrants than the total sum of presidents in the 20th century

Kirsty Major
Monday 14 November 2016 14:52 GMT
Someone better tell Trump that the president can’t deport by edict
Someone better tell Trump that the president can’t deport by edict (Getty)

Donald Trump has announced his plans to put the “bad hombres” of America back where they belong: somewhere vaguely south of Texas.

Speaking to BCS’s 60 Minutes, the President-elect said: “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.” Only when these migrants have been dealt with and the US border is secure with his wall-cum-fence, will he then turn his attention to the remaining estimated 8-11 million immigrants residing in the US without proper papers.

During his campaign Trump launched a one-man vendetta against America’s Latino community – calling Mexican immigrants “criminals” and “rapists”, and blaming them for the rise in violent crime across the US. Rolling back ever so slightly on his plans to deport all illegal immigrants, he has now decided to focus the most attention on the type of mean desperados Danny Trejo would play in a Nineties action film.

Take the rhetoric away, and you’re left with an immigration policy that is no worse, and perhaps far more lenient – whether through intent or ignorance of policy – than Barack Obama’s. The current President, or Deporter in Chief, as some immigration groups have labelled him, has removed more undocumented migrants than the total sum of presidents in the 20th century.

Notwithstanding the 2012 executive action, and its 2014 extension, that granted deportation relief to undocumented migrants who entered the country before their 16th birthday, and to the parents of legal resident children, Obama deported 2.5 million undocumented migrants between 2009 and 2015. This is despite the support that Latinos gave to his election on the grounds that he would pass immigration reform through Congress.

Obama’s administration has come down hard on illegal aliens who pose a threat to “national security, border security, and public safety”. By 2015, 81 per cent of the Obama removals came from this priority one category.

There is no difference between this policy and the one proposed by Trump. In fact, the Republican may be at a loss to find his imaginary three million gang members. There are 1.9 million “removable criminal aliens” remaining in the US currently facing deportation under the Obama administration. Where Trump plans on finding the other 1.1 million felons is anyone’s guess.

Then there’s the problem with executing his plans, even if he does find them. Under the Due Process Clause all illegal immigrants are afforded rights under the US Constitution and are entitled to full removal proceedings in court. The president can’t deport by edict and since the courts are operating under a major backlog, they won’t be deported immediately in a rerun of Eisenhower’s Operation Wetback, when hundreds of Mexicans were illegally deported without being given the chance to prove their citizenship.

Even Trump’s own party has been charged with taming their leader’s remarks – a pattern we should start to get used to. According to House Speaker Paul Ryan: “We are not planning on erecting a deportation force, Donald Trump’s not planning on that.”

Right now Trump has made no further plans to deport other undocumented groups – unlike Obama. Both misdemeanants and new immigrants were marked out as priority two and three categories to face deportation by the latter’s administration. Since 2008 the number of cases of people being deported for traffic violations has quadrupled and in 2014, 121 migrants, mostly women and children, were deported for recently entering the country.

It doesn’t sound like it, but on paper Trump’s poorly considered soundbite-inspired immigration policy may be a blessing in a very ugly disguise.

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