The day after Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said he would be open to the idea of a “deportation force” to remove people in the United States illegally, President Obama denounced the plan.
Though the President criticizes Trump’s aggressive immigration position, the Obama administration’s own record of deporting unauthorized immigrants at the border gives a hypothetical President Trump the groundwork to implement his ideas.
In an interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos Thursday, Obama characterized the deportation strategy as unrealistic:
“The notion that we’re gonna deport 11, 12 million people from this country — first of all, I have no idea where Mr. Trump thinks the money’s gonna come from. It would cost us hundreds of billions of dollars to execute that.”
The President added:
“Imagine the images on the screen flashed around the world as we were dragging parents away from their children, and putting them in what, detention centers, and then systematically sending them out.”
“Nobody thinks that that is realistic. But more importantly, that’s not who we are as Americans.”
But according to a 2014 report by the Pew Research Center, the Obama administration deported a record 438,421 unauthorized immigrants in 2013. In 2014, that number fell slightly, about 5%, to 414,481 deportations.
Here is Pew’s graphic breakdown of deportations of criminal and non-criminal unauthorized immigrants from 2001 to 2013:
President Obama has approached immigration law in a noteworthy way, however.
Through immigration policies known by their acronyms, DACA and DAPA, the Obama administration discouraged deportations of immigrants who are already inside the United States and shifted the Department of Homeland Security’s immigration enforcement priorities to focus on either criminals or people apprehended at the border.
As The Los Angeles Times noted in 2014:
“In the Obama years, all of the increase in deportations has involved people picked up within 100 miles of the border, most of whom have just recently crossed over. In 2013, almost two-thirds of deportations were in that category.
“At the same time, the administration largely ended immigration roundups at workplaces and shifted investigators into targeting business owners who illegally hired foreign workers.”
This means that a deportation-friendly infrastructure Trump would likely champion is already in place at the border.