Donald Trump’s statements throughout the last week about deporting illegal immigrants suggest that the percentage of illegal immigrants he wants to deport is tremendously low.
The Republican presidential nominee’s statements in recent days have been inconsistent, but the most reasonable estimate of the number of illegal immigrants he now wants to deport based on his statements is 690,000 — out of a widely accepted total of 11 million.
The figure, 690,000, is the number of known illegal immigrants who have been convicted of felonies or crimes defined as serious misdemeanors.
Deporting 690,000 out of America’s 11 million immigrants would result in the deportation of 6.27 percent of all known illegal immigrants. About 10,310,000 illegal immigrants — over 93 percent — would continue to reside in the United States. (For a comparison, this population of 10,310,000 remaining illegal immigrants would be slightly larger than the entire population of Sweden.)
Last week, amid reports that Trump will disavow his trademark campaign promise to deport millions of illegal aliens, he announced on “The O’Reilly Factor” that his immigration policy would continue the policies of Barack Obama and George W. Bush.
“What people don’t know is that Obama got tremendous numbers of people out of the country — Bush the same thing,” Trump explained. “Lots of people were brought out of the country with the existing laws. Well, I’m gonna do the same thing.”
“Now, the existing laws are very strong,” Trump told Fox News host Bill O’Reilly. “The existing laws, the first thing we are going to do if and when I win, we are going to get rid of all of the bad ones.”
Trump also used the term “bad ones” at a town hall event in Austin, Texas with Sean Hannity on Wednesday. “Everybody agrees we get the bad ones out,” Trump said.
In a Thursday interview with CNN host Anderson Cooper, Trump said his policy will focus on deporting “bad dudes.”
The exact meaning of Trump’s terms “bad ones” and “bad dudes” is unclear, but the most reasonable interpretation is that he is referring to illegal immigrants who have been convicted of crimes.
“We have gang members. We have killers,” Trump told O’Reilly last Monday. “We have a lot of bad people that have to get out of this country. We are going to get them out, and the police know who they are.”
In the immigration plan Trump released in August 2015, he specifically called for the deportation of criminal illegal immigrants.
While Trump speculated to CNN’s Cooper that the number of illegal immigrants who have committed crimes is “probably millions,” criminal statistics do not reflect this claim.
The Migration Policy Institute, a think tank described as neutral by partisans on both sides of the immigration divide, estimates that about 300,000 of America’s known illegal immigrants have felony convictions. This estimate is based on statistics for actual criminal convictions from 2003 to 2013. These illegal immigrants are murderers, gang members and various other dangerous criminals.
Another 390,000 known illegal immigrants currently living in the United States have been convicted of committing serious misdemeanors, according to the Migration Policy Institute’s statistics. The term “serious misdemeanor” varies by state. Examples can include prostitution, child endangerment, the possession of certain illegal drugs and criminal trespass to a vehicle.
On Thursday, Trump suggested that as many as 30 million illegal immigrants could be living in the United States right now.
“Nobody even knows it’s 11 [million],” he told CNN’s Anderson Cooper. “It could be 30 [million], it could be 5 [million].”
In the event that there are 30 million illegal immigrants in the United States, a Trump policy of deporting convicted criminals would lead to the deportation of 2.3 percent of the known illegal immigrant population — leaving 29,310,000 illegal immigrants in place. (That’s over 4 million more people than everyone in Texas.)
If the number of illegal immigrants is 5 million, Trump’s policy would deport 13.8 percent of all known illegal immigrants, leaving 4,310,000 illegal immigrants in the United States.
The data concerning illegal immigrants who have committed crimes was compiled in 2014 and is “the most recent data available,” Migration Policy Institute communications director Michelle Mittelstadt told The Daily Caller. “It takes quite a while to do these annual surveys.”
According to the Center for Immigration Studies, a think tank which favors immigration restrictions, the number of illegal immigrants who have committed crimes is much higher because, at some point in their immigrant experience, many illegal immigrants have committed some kind of criminal fraud.
“Illegal immigrants are not ‘undocumented,'” Center for Immigration Studies communications director Marguerite Telford said in a statement to TheDC. “They have fraudulent documents such as counterfeit Social Security cards, forged drivers licenses, fake ‘green cards’ and phony birth certificates.”
“Experts suggest that approximately 75 percent of working-age illegal aliens use fraudulent Social Security cards to obtain employment,” Telford added.
Identity theft is also a commonly-committed crime among illegal immigrants, Telford suggested.
In testimony to a Texas state Senate earlier this year, Jessica Vaughan of the Center for Immigration Studies said that the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), an agency of the Department of Homeland Security, “has estimated that approximately 2.1 million criminal aliens are living in the United States.”
TheDC contacted the ICE for comment, but the agency failed to respond by press time.
TheDC also contacted groups which are generally supportive of illegal immigrants. Their representatives said they don’t have figures on the number of illegal immigrants in the United States who commit crimes.
According to the Migration Policy Institute, 640,000 illegal immigrants have entered the United States since Jan. 1, 2014 and continue to reside here.
An additional 60,000 have received removal orders since Jan. 1, 2014 but remain within the borders.
The number of illegal immigrants who entered the United States from roughly 2007 to 2010 is 1,370,000, the Migration Policy Institute says.
In many years prior to 2010, the group says, some 790,000 illegal immigrants had either re-entered the United States after being deported, or managed to stay in the United States despite a final deportation order.
If Trump’s policy were to include among the total number of criminals illegal immigrants under deportation orders (for whatever reason) as well as recently-arrived illegal immigrants, the total number of criminal immigrants would be 1.4 million, according to the Migration Policy Institute’s estimates. The figure, 1.4 million, is about 13 percent of the U.S. illegal immigration population.
Some 9.6 million illegal immigrants — a population slightly larger than the combined total populations of Oregon and Minnesota — would remain under such a broader policy.
Under immigration law as it was formulated in 2010, before a series of executive orders by Obama, a Trump policy of deporting criminals as well as recently-arrived immigrants and immigrants under deportation orders would result in the deportations of about 3 million illegal immigrants.
Thus, 8 million illegal immigrants would stay. That figure is slightly less than the entire population of Virginia.
Trump has responded ambiguously to questions about how he would address the overwhelmingly large population of illegal immigrant who have not committed felonies or serious misdemeanors.
“There’s no amnesty, as such,” Trump told Hannity at the Austin town hall event. “But we work with them” provided they “pay back-taxes.”
Trump has flatly stated that illegal immigrants would not be eligible for U.S. citizenship under his policy. At the same time, he suggested the possibility of a form of “touchback amnesty” this week, which could allow vast numbers of illegal immigrants to leave the United States briefly and then return to live and work under some kind of legal status.
“There’s no path to legalization unless they leave the country,” Trump told CNN’s Cooper on Thursday. “When they come back in, then they can start paying taxes, but there is no path to legalization unless they leave the country and then come back.”
Trump would not commit to deporting illegal immigrants who have not been convicted of any crimes. He would also not commit to allowing them to stay. “There is a very good chance the answer could be yes,” Trump told CNN’s Cooper when Cooper asked whether he would deport illegal immigrants who have stayed out of trouble. “We’re going to see what happens.”
Choosing which illegal immigrants to deport is complex and difficult for Trump, he told Hannity on Wednesday.
“I’ve had very strong people come up to me — really great, great people come up to me — and they’ve said, ‘Mr. Trump, I love you, but to take a person who’s been here for 15 or 20 years and throw them and their family out, it’s so tough, Mr. Trump,'” Trump said. “I have it all the time! It’s a very, very hard thing.”
“There could certainly be a softening because we’re not looking to hurt people,” the GOP nominee added.
Trump indicated that he plans to declare his immigration policy in a crystallized form in a speech later this week. He had suggested that he would give such a speech last week, but the speech was delayed for unspecified reasons.
Trump, 70, has changed his position on the immigration issue many times in recent years. (RELATED: From Immigration To Guns To Abortion, Donald Trump Must Reckon With His Progressive History)
Just four years before making severe immigration restrictions the centerpiece of his 2016 presidential campaign, Trump suggested that hostility toward illegal immigrants partially cost 2012 GOP candidate Mitt Romney the presidency.
U.S. immigration policy must “take care of this incredible problem that we have with respect to immigration, with respect to people wanting to be wonderful productive citizens of this country,” the septuagenarian billionaire told journalist Ronald Kessler.
“He had a crazy policy of self-deportation which was maniacal,” Trump said of Romney. “It sounded as bad as it was, and he lost all of the Latino vote.” (RELATED: FLASHBACK: Trump Bashed Romney For Being ‘Mean-Spirited On Illegal Immigration After 2012 Election)
In 2011, Trump suggested that the way to deal with America’s 11 million illegal immigrants is on a case-by-case basis. “You know, it’s hard to generalize,” Trump told Bill O’Reilly. “You’re going to have to look at the individual people.”
“If somebody’s been outstanding, we try and work something out,” Trump similarly explained in July 2015, a day after a tour of the U.S.-Mexico border.
In August of 2015, Trump released a broad immigration reform outline calling for an end to birthright citizenship for the children of illegal immigrants, a large wall between the United States and Mexico, an increase in immigration enforcement and the deportation of criminal illegal immigrants.
In November 2015, Trump called for a “deportation force” to remove the illegal immigrants currently living and working in the United States. (RELATED: Trump Calls For ‘Deportation Force’ To Remove Illegal Immigrants ‘Humanely’
In 1999, Trump said he supported stringent restrictions on immigration. “I think that too many people are flowing into the country,” he told Tim Russert on Meet the Press then.