Donald Trump will begin tackling the issue of illegal immigration by rounding up and deporting undocumented immigrants with criminal records, a group that he estimates at 2 million to 3 million people, the president-elect said in an interview to air Sunday night.
“What we are going to do is get the people that are criminal and have criminal records, gang members, drug dealers, where a lot of these people, probably 2 million, it could be even 3 million, we are getting them out of our country or we are going to incarcerate,” he said in the interview, to air on “60 Minutes” on CBS.
“But we’re getting them out of our country; they’re here illegally.”
Only then, Trump said, will he figure out a plan to deal with the “terrific people” who are in the U.S. illegally but have otherwise clean criminal histories. Securing the border, he said, is a prerequisite for any other action on immigration.
The Manhattan billionaire’s stance on the issue of immigration evolved throughout his candidacy. He kicked off his ultimately victorious campaign with a rally at Trump Tower in Manhattan, where he took a hard-line stance on immigration, labeling undocumented immigrants as rapists, drug dealers and criminals, adding that “some, I assume, are good people.” During the GOP primary, he pledged to deport every single undocumented immigrant currently in the country and said he would create a deportation force to accomplish that goal.
But as he shifted to the general election, the tone of his rhetoric on the issue changed. He shifted from a promise to deport all undocumented immigrants to the position he took with “60 Minutes,” to first remove those with criminal records and only then to figure out what to do with those who remain.
One unchanged part of his immigration platform has been his plan for the construction of a wall along America’s southern border with Mexico, something he said he would force the Mexican government to pay for by threatening to cut off the flow of money from immigrants to their families south of the border. Trump said Sunday that while an actual wall will be necessary along some portions of the border, a mere fence will suffice in others.
“I’m very good at this; it’s called construction,” he said.