US President-elect, Donald Trump, has said he will deport or jail up to three million illegal migrants initially.
Those targeted would be migrants with criminal records, such as gang members and drug dealers, he told US broadcaster CBS in an interview.
For the first time since winning the US presidency, Trump has put a number on how many people he plans to deport from US soil and it’s a big one – two to three million.
Although he says this group is comprised of violent criminals, drug-dealers and gang members, to hit such a high mark would involve either casting a very wide net that covers even the smallest infractions or also deporting legal alien residents of the US with criminal convictions.
Trump told CBS,”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 two million, it could be even three million, we are getting them out of our country or we are going to incarcerate.”
To pull this off, an expanded “deportation force” would almost certainly be necessary, but Trump’s advisers have spent the past few days downplaying the prospect of such an organisation.
He also confirmed that another election promise, to build a wall with Mexico, still stood but could include fencing.
Meanwhile, Trump also has curtailed the scope of his “big, beautiful” border wall, acknowledging that it could be a fence in some areas. All of this is evidence that Trump is grappling with exactly how to make his controversial immigration promises a reality.
Proposing a multi-billion-dollar wall and mass deportations is easy. Delivering, in the face of fiscal realities and opposition within one’s own party, is a different matter entirely.
There are around 11 million undocumented immigrants in the US, many of them from Mexico.
Trump pledged during the election campaign to overturn amnesties introduced by President Barack Obama, and strictly enforce immigration laws, deporting those without correct documents.
Asked about his plans for the Mexican border, he said “a wall is more appropriate” in some parts but “there could be some fencing.”
Other undocumented migrants would be assessed once the border was secured, Trump added.
However, another top Republican, House Speaker Paul Ryan, said on Sunday that border security was a greater priority than mass deportation.
“We are not planning on erecting a deportation force,’’ he told CNN’s State of the Union programme
“I think we should put people’s minds at ease,” he added.
Trump is due to take over at the White House on January 20, when Barack Obama steps down after two terms in office.