In a "60 Minutes” interview scheduled to air Sunday, President-elect Donald Trump said he planned to immediately deport 2 million to 3 million undocumented immigrants who “have criminal records” after his inauguration next January.
“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,” Trump told "60 Minutes” correspondent Lesley Stahl, according to a preview of the interview released by CBS. “But we’re getting them out of our country. They’re here illegally.”
Stahl had pressed Trump about his campaign pledge to deport “millions and millions of undocumented immigrants.” Trump told her that after securing the border, his administration would make a “determination” on the remaining undocumented immigrants in the country.
“After the border is secure and after everything gets normalized, we’re going to make a determination on the people that they’re talking about — who are terrific people. They’re terrific people, but we are gonna make a determination at that,” Trump said. “But before we make that determination . . . it’s very important, we are going to secure our border.”
His comments echoed those he had made at the start of his campaign: “When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best,” Trump had said last June when he announced his candidacy. “They're not sending you. They're not sending you. They're sending people that have lots of problems, and they're bringing those problems with us. They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
According to The Washington Post Fact Checker, Trump likely gets these estimates from a Department of Homeland Security fiscal 2013 report saying there were 1.9 million “removable criminal aliens.” However, that figure includes undocumented immigrants and people who are lawful permanent residents, or those who have temporary visas.
As for how many of those people are illegally present noncitizens, there are conflicting figures from the think tank Migration Policy Institute and the Center for Immigration Studies. In a fact check, The Post rated Trump's figures “Two Pinocchios,” noting that federal immigration enforcement data is “not always transparent or reliable.”
In some ways, Trump's proposal follows what President Barack Obama's administration has been doing. According to Politifact, DHS statistics show there have been more than 2.4 million "removals" under Obama between fiscal years 2009 and 2014, a record number of deportations when compared with previous presidents. (Those figures led the National Council of La Raza to dub Obama the "deporter-in-chief," a nickname other critics of his deportation policy have used.)
Also under Obama, an increasing percentage of those deported were people with criminal records, according to DHS. In fiscal 2015, 91 percent of "removals and returns" were people previously convicted of a crime, compared to 86 percent in fiscal 2014 and 67 percent in fiscal 2011.
Indeed, on the campaign trail, Trump had said he would do what Obama was doing but "with a lot more energy." What would be new is the speed and scale with which Trump has vowed to remove undocumented immigrants with criminal records. His proposal to deport "2 to 3 million" people would be roughly equivalent to the number of people removed over the course of about six years under Obama's presidency. It is unclear how Trump would feasibly implement such a plan immediately after inauguration, as promised, without monumental expense and potentially exposing Americans to all kinds of disruptions.
Trump's campaign promises also included fully repealing the Affordable Care Act, forcing Mexico to pay for a border wall and banning Muslims from entering the U.S.
Since winning the election, Trump and his key advisers have been backing away from some of those promises, and Republican leaders who made the Sunday political-show circuit seemed to approach the issue of mass deportations more cautiously.
“I think it’s difficult to do,” Republican House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday earlier Sunday morning. “First thing you have to do is secure the border, and then we’ll have discussions.”
McCarthy also hedged on the border wall, saying Republicans were focused on “securing the southern border” but with the aid of technology rather than necessarily a full-length brick-and-mortar wall.
House speaker Rep. Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) told Jake Tapper on CNN's “State of the Union” on Sunday that securing the border was their top priority.
“We are not planning on erecting a deportation force,” Ryan said. “Donald Trump is not planning on that.”
Regarding his border wall plans, Trump told Lesley Stahl on "60 Minutes” that he would accept fencing along some of the border, as Republicans in Congress have proposed.
“For certain areas, I would. But for certain areas a wall is more appropriate,” Trump said. “I'm very good at this. It's called construction.”
On Thursday, former House speaker Newt Gingrich admitted that Trump would likely not focus on getting Mexico to pay for the wall, as the candidate had promised during his campaign, but that it had been “a great campaign device.”
CBS had released on Saturday two preview clips of same "60 Minutes” segment, Trump's first televised interview since winning the election last week.
Seated with his wife, Melania, and his four adult children, Trump spoke to Stahl about his seemingly shifting position on the Affordable Care Act, saying he would try to preserve key parts of the health care act, and also praised Hillary Clinton as “very strong and very smart.”
Trump told Stahl that Clinton's phone call conceding the election was “lovely” and acknowledged that making the phone call was likely “tougher for her than it would have been for me,” according to previews of the interview released by CBS.
“She couldn’t have been nicer. She just said, 'Congratulations, Donald, well done,' " Trump told Stahl. “And I said, 'I want to thank you very much. You were a great competitor.' She is very strong and very smart.”
Trump's tone in the interview was in sharp contrast to his bitter attacks on the campaign trail, in which he nicknamed Clinton “Crooked Hillary” and encouraged chants of “Lock her up!” at his rallies. Among other insults, Trump also referred to his competitor as “the devil,” “a bigot” and — at the tail end of the final presidential debate — “such a nasty woman.”
Trump also told Stahl that former president Bill Clinton called him the following day and “couldn't have been more gracious.”
“He said it was an amazing run — one of the most amazing he's ever seen,” Trump said. “He was very, very, really, very nice.”
During the campaign, Trump had tried to use Bill Clinton's infidelities as a way to attack and embarrass Hillary Clinton. For the second presidential debate, Trump had sought to intimidate his competitor by inviting women who had accused the former president of sexual abuse to sit in the Trump family box. Debate officials quashed the idea.
In the interview with Stahl, Trump did not rule out calling both of the Clintons for advice during his term.
“I mean, this is a very talented family,” he said. “Certainly, I would certainly think about that.”
Trump also reiterated on "60 Minutes” that he may keep portions of the Affordable Care Act, something he had mentioned he might do after meeting with President Obama in the White House on Thursday.
When Stahl asked whether people with preexisting conditions would still be covered after Trump repealed and replaced the health law, Trump said they would “because it happens to be one of the strongest assets.”
“Also, with the children living with their parents for an extended period, we’re going to . . . very much try and keep that,” Trump added, referring to portions of the health care act that cover children under their parents' insurance until age 26. “It adds cost, but it’s very much something we’re going to try and keep.”
When Stahl questioned whether there would be a gap between the repeal of the Affordable Care Act and the implementation of a new plan that could leave millions of people uninsured, Trump interrupted her.
“Nope. We're going to do it simultaneously. It'll be just fine. It's what I do. I do a good job. You know, I mean, I know how to do this stuff,” Trump said. “We're going to repeal and replace it. And we're not going to have, like, a two-day period and we're not going to have a two-year period where there's nothing. It will be repealed and replaced. I mean, you'll know. And it will be great health care for much less money.”
The "60 Minutes” interview will be broadcast on CBS at 7 p.m. Eastern time on Sunday, Nov. 13.
A previous version of this post misstated how long young adults could remain on their parents’ insurance plans under Obamacare. They can be covered until they turn 26. This post has been updated.
Cleve R. Wootson Jr. contributed to this report.