Here’s Why Trump Will Have a Hard Time Finding 2-3 Million Undocumented Immigrants to Deport

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) does not have an official number on the number of people with criminal convictions who may be in the country without U.S. documentation.

By Alexandra HartNovember 20, 2016 9:25 pm| , ,

President-elect Donald Trump’s campaign was heavy on border security and cracking down on immigrants who may have entered the country illegally. Post-election, he’s now saying one of his first moves as president will be to deport two to three million of these immigrants in the U.S., if they have criminal convictions.

But Jason Buch with the San Antonio Express-News says Trump will likely have a hard time finding that many undocumented immigrants with criminal convictions.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) does not have an official number on the number of immigrants who may be in the country without U.S. documentation. Buch says the most common number that’s used is that there are 11 to 12 million people in the country without U.S. papers.

Buch says ICE also doesn’t have a real count of immigrants who may be here illegally that have criminal convictions. But based on a 2013 budget justification, the Department of Homeland Security has estimated that there are 1.9 million immigrants here legally and illegally that may have some sort of criminal conviction that would make them removable from the country.

“It’s not a hard number, it’s an estimation,” Buch says.

Under President Barack Obama, the policy has been to seek out immigrants who have been arrested and charged with, or convicted of a crime, Buch says. ICE then puts them into removal proceedings.

But there may be a large number of immigrants – both with and without U.S. papers – who have flown under the radar. A 1996 immigration bill set new levels of crime that would make a person deportable.

“There are probably people on green cards that committed crimes in the [1980s] and 90s who have never come in contact with ICE because at the time they committed that crime it did not make them removable.”

The number of people who are deported has gone down in the past two years, Buch says. The Obama administration has been focusing on people who have committed major, not minor, crimes. But President Obama has come under fire for his policy.

“The restrictionist groups say the Obama administration – particularly since 2014 when they set a new set of guidelines for who’s deportable – has been far too narrow in who they target for deportation,” Buch says.

Post by Betsy Joles and Beth Cortez-Neavel.