President-elect Donald Trump built his campaign on a number of cornerstones, one being the promise to deport undocumented immigrants and to build a wall across the U.S.-Mexican border. Since this seems to be one of the promises that he is, depending on the day, most adamant about keeping, it is important to consider what Trump's plan will truly entail and what it would take for him to actually deport millions of immigrants.
Find the money.
In his interview with 60 Minutes in November, Trump said he still planned on building the wall and "deporting and/or incarcerating 2 to 3 million undocumented immigrants." The plan has been heavily criticized for its projected costs, which are likely to be astronomical.
According to the Intercept, "At an average cost of $10,000 per deportation, Trump would need to get Congress to approve $20 billion to $30 billion in immigration enforcement funds to fulfill his promise." Those figures don't include the expense of building the wall, which would cost the United States billions on top of the money already spent by the to fence a third of the border, the Washington Post reported.
Increase the number of immigration agents.
Trump has also said he hopes to triple the number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, an additional cost Congress might not support, the Post reported.
And even if Congress did support the measure, ICE agents don't have the right to break down doors of private homes and search for undocumented immigrants, as stated by the Washington Post. In an article published earlier this year about raids conducted in January, the Guardian describes agents knock so loudly it seems like the door could break down. As it did then, these types of raids would no doubt increase the fear already brewing across the nation.
Ignore due process
While Trump has famously boasted, in reference to undocumented immigrants, that on "day one, my first hour in office, those people are gone," it turns out it's not that simple. Usually, these individuals are entitled to some rights before they are deported. For example, those who have been in the country for more than five years have a right to a hearing. Sometimes, waiting for these hearings can take months.
This is part of due process, and according to the American Civil Liberties Union, it would have to be ignored or manipulated in order for Trump to be able to remove millions of people from the country as quickly as his supporters and his fervent promises would have you believe is possible.
Take on individual cities
Several major U.S. cities with large immigrant populations — including New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Minneapolis — have labeled themselves as "sanctuary cities," or places where immigrants can live without fear of being asked for paperwork or asked about their statuses. As a point of reassurance, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said on Nov. 14, "Chicago is your home. You are always welcome in this city," and Mayor Bill de Blasio said Nov. 18 that New York would "remain a 'sanctuary city.'"
However, Trump has said he would crack down on these sanctuary cities, threatening to cut federal funding if they refused to help find and detain individuals to be deported, Mother Jones reported. Of course, this act would create a number of legal issues, not to mention the outrage that would occur as a result of cutting federal funding for some of the largest cities in the United States.
Unfortunately, the many logistical and financial issues that stand in the way of Trump's ability to deport millions of immigrants as quickly as possible must also be weighed against the ease for the president to act upon his beliefs. For example, President Barack Obama issued direct instructions to ICE in 2014 to focus only on those individuals who had committed crimes or posed a serious threat to the U.S, according to the Washington Post.
Trump, on the other hand, could create his own directive just as easily, telling ICE agents to focus instead on rounding up as many people as possible. Though there are limits to what ICE can actually achieve on its own, a different directive from a different president could still dramatically affect the agency and its agents, let alone people living in fear of deportation.
In addition, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which began 2012, has protected hundreds of thousands of individuals from being deported if they were brought to the U.S. as children. Trump has promised to give no such amnesty to these individuals, and because the DACA isn't a law, he could remove it with the stroke of a pen. Even worse, he could use the information provided by individuals who applied for the program to create more deportations.
An uphill battle
Trump will face considerable challenges if he attempts to follow through on his plan to deport millions of immigrants. However, it is important that we not forget the inherent powers of the president, especially in addition to a party-controlled House and Senate that may be more than willing to fall in line.