President Barack Obama doesn’t think Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s plan for mass deportation of undocumented immigrants is realistic.
“The notion that we’re gonna deport 11, 12 million people from this country -- first of all, I have no idea where Mr. Trump thinks the money’s gonna come from. It would cost us hundreds of billions of dollars to execute that,” Obama told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos during a Nov. 12 interview.
“Imagine the images on the screen flashed around the world as we were dragging parents away from their children, and putting them in what, detention centers, and then systematically sending them out,” he said. “Nobody thinks that that is realistic. But more importantly, that’s not who we are as Americans.”
The president was responding to questions from Stephanopoulos about Trump’s recent assertion that the U.S. needs to implement a “deportation force” much like the country did during the administration of President Dwight D. Eisenhower. That program, dubbed “Operation Wetback” at the time, deported 1.5 million people.
“Let me just tell you that Dwight Eisenhower, good president, great president, people liked him,” Trump said during the Nov. 10 presidential debates, according to The Washington Post. “‘I like Ike,'” right? The expression, ‘I like Ike.’ Moved a 1.5 million illegal immigrants out of this country, moved them just beyond the border. They came back. Moved them again beyond the border, they came back. Didn’t like it. Moved them way south. They never came back.”
Trump showed up the next morning on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” to defend his position.
“You’re going to have a deportation force, and you’re going to do it humanely,” he said. “Look, we have to do what we have to do, and Ike did it and other people have done it.”
Obama told Stephanopoulos a return to something akin to Operation Wetback would be a mistake.
“Well I think the name of the operation tells you something about the dangers of looking backward,” the president said.
Asked why such a proposal from Trump has garnered so much attention, Obama said “there has always been a strain of anti-immigrant sentiment in America.”
“It’s the job of leaders not to play into that sentiment,” he said. “We don’t want, I think, a president or any person in a position of leadership to play on those kinds of fears.”