During his major immigration speech Wednesday night in Phoenix, Donald Trump reiterated his plan to create a deportation force tasked with removing undocumented immigrants from the country — a proposal he first put forth during the Republican primary.
“We are going to triple the number of ICE deportation officers,” Trump said. “Within ICE, I am going to create a new special deportation task force focused on identifying and quickly removing the most dangerous criminal illegal immigrants in America who have evaded justice.”
Though “criminal illegal immigrants” would be the initial focus of Trump’s deportation force, he made clear that he wants all undocumented people out.
“Anyone who has entered the United States illegally is subject to deportation,” he said. “That is what it means to have laws and to have a country. Otherwise we don’t have a country.”
Whether Trump would stick with his deportation force plan during the general election phase of the campaign was a subject of speculation in recent days. Over the weekend, his campaign signaled Trump might be shifting to a more “humane” approach. On Sunday’s Face the Nation, Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway said he’s “not talking about a deportation force, but he is talking about being fair and humane.” The headline to the New York Times report detailing those comments reads, “Donald Trump’s Surrogates Back Off ‘Deportation Force’ For Illegal Immigrants.”
But like the rest of the speech, Trump’s deportation force proposal indicated his hard-line immigration message hasn’t changed from what he said in the speech launching his campaign, when he called Mexicans who illegally cross the border “rapists” and “criminals.”
The reality is that the Obama administration already operates a deportation force of sorts. Earlier this year, ThinkProgress detailed how deportation raids are turning Latino communities into ghost towns and splitting up families. But Trump wants to beef up those efforts, the ultimate goal being the removal of all undocumented immigrants from the country — during his speech, Trump didn’t mention any possible pathway to citizenship for them.
Beyond the human toll, Trump didn’t talk about the huge financial burden deporting the country’s 11 million undocumented immigrants would impose. Citing a recent study from the right-leaning American Action Forum think tank, the Los Angeles Times reported that deporting all undocumented immigrants would cost up to $300 billion and reduce the domestic product by roughly $1 trillion. To meet Trump’s goal in two years, the report estimates that about 90,000 deportation officers would be needed. But if Trump followed through on his promise to triple the current number of 5,000 deportation officers, that would still leave him about 75,000 short.