Deportation Under Trump: 3 scenarios that could play out in 2017

Deportation Under Trump: 3 scenarios that could play out in 2017
Source: Getty Images
Source: Getty Images

To be clear, we do not know what deportation plan Trump will pursue once he becomes the United States' 45th president. Trump could choose to evict millions of undocumented immigrants on a scale the country has never seen. He could also do nothing. 

After he won the election, Trump said a focus of his deportation plan would be the removal of 2 to 3 million people he says are criminals and undocumented immigrants. That falls between his call during the campaign to deport all undocumented immigrants and later statements that backed down from that rhetoric.

President Barack Obama's administration has been tougher on deportation than many know. In August, ABC News reported Obama had deported more people than any other president, with the vast majority of 2015 deportations focused on criminals. 

Here are three deportation strategies Trump could pursue in 2017:

Campaign trail Trump: mass deportation

One of Trump's most incendiary campaign statements came in November 2015 when he said he would create a "deportation force." That force would remove the approximately 11 million undocumented immigrants living in America. 

"You're going to have a deportation force, and you're going to do it humanely," Trump told MSNBC at the time. This triggered major fear among many groups that Trump would undertake a mission to remove millions of people from the country on a scale never seen before.

Since last November, Trump has backed down from this rhetoric. Trump's transition website makes no mention of such a large scale deportation. 

Recent Trump rhetoric: deporting criminals

In an interview on 60 Minutes on Sunday, Trump said that he favored the deportation of between 2 and 3 million undocumented immigrants that he said are criminals.

Whether Trump will follow through on such a plan is anyone's guess. GreatAgain.gov says a Trump administration will have "zero tolerance for criminal aliens." That does not specify whether that means all undocumented immigrants themselves, or only those who have committed crimes in the U.S. Some politicians used to use the term "illegal aliens" to refer to undocumented immigrants, though use of the word "illegal" in reference to immigrants has largely fallen out of favor.

If Trump pursues a strategy of deporting undocumented immigrants who have committed crimes, he may have trouble finding two million people that fit that profile. A 2013 Department of Homeland Security report said there are an estimated 1.9 million people in the U.S. from other countries who have committed crimes. Many them are likely here legally: The nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute believes there are only 820,000 people who are both undocumented immigrants .

And there is no guarantee Trump would find support (or funding) for a deportation plan in Congress. Newly re-elected House Speaker Paul Ryan, whose lukewarm support of Trump during the presidential campaign is infamous, has said there will not be a "deportation force" nor will there be mass deportations.

A hodgepodge of anti-immigration measures, with or without more deportation

Instead of the rapid mass deportation of millions of people, Trump's administration may draw a patchwork of other measures liberal and pro-immigration groups will still view as extreme. 

Trump has reaffirmed his commitment to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, though he has said part of the 1,000-plus mile structure could be fencing. He has repeatedly said he will support efforts to block funding to sanctuary cities, U.S. jurisdictions that shelter undocumented immigrants. 

Trump's transition team is reportedly considering making Muslim immigrants to the U.S. put their names on a national registry. The news harkens back to Trump's 2015 assertion that Muslims "have to be" put in a national database because of their possible ties to terrorists, despite the fact various studies show immigrants largely commit crimes at lower rates than U.S.-born residents. Such a program existed in 2001, in the wake of 9/11, and was shut down in 2011. 

And even if Trump continued the level of deportation pursued by Obama's administration, he would still be kicking undocumented immigrants out of America at a higher rate than George W. Bush, the last Republican president.

Something to remember: The number of undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. has remained steady, at around 11 million, during Obama's presidency. And 66% of those immigrants have lived in the U.S. for at least 10 years.