*It might require not deporting people.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump plans to deport all undocumented immigrants "humanely."
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump plans to deport all undocumented immigrants "humanely."
(Isaac Brekken/Getty Images)

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump says he has a plan to deport or drive out every single undocumented immigrant in 18 to 24 months. He's not offering many details -- but he's said repeatedly that the process will be "very humane."

There are many reasons why this idea would be unrealistic in practice. More than 11 million undocumented immigrants are scattered around the U.S., and it would take a massive amount of money and agents to track them all down. Many of them have American family members. And some industries, such as agriculture, rely on their labor and might be left temporarily without workers.

But what about the "humane" aspect? Is it possible to craft a mass deportation policy that would be humane?

Since Trump has eschewed specifics on how his proposal would function, The Huffington Post reached out to several experts and activists -- some who think undocumented immigrants should benefit from a pathway to citizenship, others who don't -- to see if they could answer that question.

Those opposed to a pathway to citizenship said mass deportation was feasible, in part because they believed many people would leave on their own if the administration would simply enforce existing laws.

To most others, the question was absurd on its face.

"There's no way you can do this without being inhumane," said David Leopold, an Ohio immigration attorney who previously served as president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. "It's an inhumane concept."

Many people HuffPost interviewed declined to discuss mass deportation at all. But a few gave some ideas for how the current deportation system could be made more humane and more fair. Unfortunately for Trump, many of those ideas would lead to a large number of undocumented immigrants staying in the U.S.

Here's what it would take to make deportation proceedings more "humane," according to the experts:

Ensure Due Process For Everyone In Deportation Proceedings

All people charged with a crime have the right to an attorney, but the same isn't true in deportation hearings -- though people facing deportation are still up against a trained government attorney arguing for a life-altering penalty. Even children go before immigration judges alone, and they win their cases less frequently if they don't have legal representation.

Greg Chen, director of advocacy for AILA, said humane mass deportation is impossible. But he said the overall existing system could be improved by ensuring that everyone had an attorney, and by adding more judges and ending expedited removal processes that lead to people being deported without time to pursue legal options.

"The system could be made more fair if this were done, because it would not necessarily result in the deportation of all of these people," Chen said. "Many of these people are eligible for humanitarian protection or other relief under immigration law, and that needs to be figured out."

Limit Immigrant Detention

Currently, the U.S. maintains space to detain 34,000 immigrants at a time. This includes controversial facilities that house mothers and children while they undergo deportation proceedings. Some of the people detained have been convicted of crimes, although they've typically already served their time. Others are there simply for being in the country without legal authorization.

People in detention facilities are separated from their families and are sometimes far away from the immigration lawyers who are working to help them. So, to make detention more humane, it should actually be replaced with something else -- such as bond, orders of supervision or deferred action, according to Leopold.

"You could use much less intrusive methods of detention," he said.

Increase Discretion In Deportation Proceedings

Most undocumented immigrants have lived in the U.S. for more than a decade, and 4 million undocumented adults live with a U.S. citizen child, according to a 2012 report from Pew Research Center. Deporting parents can have serious implications for those kids.

More discretion -- to account for factors like time spent in the U.S. and family living in the country -- would allow for a more humane system, said Marc Rosenblum, a deputy director of Migration Policy Institute.

"When you're talking about mixed-status families and people who have been here a long time, I don't think there is a way that they can humanely be deported," he said. "So when you talk about making the system more humane, I think it has to involve building in discretion for judges to take that into account."

Unlike Rosenblum and the other experts above, however, there are people who think the possibility of "humane" mass deportation is conceivable, and that it's something worth pursuing. Below are a few of their proposals:

Send A Message That Unauthorized Immigration Won't Be Accepted

Trump isn't alone in his aim to drive out the undocumented population. Boosting enforcement and trusting that a large number undocumented people would leave on their own might be a solution, said William Gheen of the Americans for Legal Immigration PAC, or ALIPAC, which strongly opposes unauthorized immigrants.

Simply having Trump as the Republican presidential nominee could convince some undocumented immigrants to leave, Gheen said. He has previously advocated for "safe departure" checkpoints along the border that allow undocumented immigrants to leave without being detained.

"If [Trump] sticks to his pledge about deporting all illegal immigrants, I think many will start to leave before November of next year," Gheen said.

Ramp Up Enforcement

Mark Krikorian, the executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, said in an email that he had "no idea" what Trump has in mind in terms of deportation, but had some suggestions "to get a significant share of the illegal population to leave, and none of it is 'inhumane' by any non-advocacy-group definition."

That would include increasing deportation to 2013 levels, requiring employers to use the E-Verify system to check new hires' immigration status, and making local law enforcement coordinate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Krikorian also suggested pushing states to stop issuing driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants.

At the same time, he said, the government could crack down on people who overstay their visas, and prosecute all unauthorized border-crossers.

"Do all that, and you'll see the illegal population shrink significantly, mainly through attrition," Krikorian wrote.

Before You Go

Popular in the Community