In his rallies and in a 60 Minutes Interview, incoming President Donald Trump has said that he will start deporting 2 to 3 million immigrants that have been convicted of a crime (the so-called “bad hombres”) as soon as he reaches the Oval Office. Leaving aside the numerical imprecision of his promise (a million migrant range is a lot for any public official to not know) the source of his claim is unclear. A closer examination of the facts would lead any serious observer to conclude that the number of “bad hombres” could be closer to 500,000 than 2 to 3 million (with many of these migrants facing immigration crimes as their most serious offense).
First, where did Trump get his numbers? Stephanie Leutert surmises that it likely comes from a sentence in the 2,000+ page 2013 Department of Homeland Security (DHS) budget report to Congress. So is it correct?
Probably not. As Stephanie details, the numbers are based on unauthorized immigrants plus legal permanent residents (in other words, more than just unauthorized immigrants). The authors then applied lifetime incarceration rates to get a sense of how many may have already committed crimes. But matching up the incarceration rates by gender and race still doesn’t get you even near 2 million. The way that could get you closest to the 2 million (and not even close to 3 million) is by taking “the incarceration rate for U.S. Hispanic male adults (7.7 percent) and applying it to the entire 24.2 million non-citizens,” which equals 1.86 million. In other words not necessarily immigrants, let alone unauthorized immigrants. But that isn’t what Trump’s supposed source has done.
As a result, even using the methodology that the Trump team is relying on, the pool of criminal undocumented immigrants is closer to 550,000. But don’t just take Stephanie’s word for it, FiveThirtyEight has also challenged Trump’s numbers and come up with numbers even lower.
So, yes, Trump can start deporting criminal undocumented immigrants as soon as he sets foot in the White House. But for those who thought that his presidency would result in more than 2 million (or maybe even 3 million) criminal immigrants packing their bags, you’re about to get disappointed. There aren’t that many “bad hombres.”