Trump's Order May Mark 11 Million Undocumented Immigrants for Deportation: Experts

Legal experts weigh in on the executive orders on immigration signed Wednesday.

ByABC News
January 26, 2017, 6:12 AM

— -- The nation's undocumented immigrants -- approximately 11 million by a 2014 Pew Research estimate -- could be made a priority for deportation as a result of the executive order signed by President Donald Trump Wednesday, according to legal experts.

The order delineates several categories of undocumented immigrants who are priority for removal from the United States including those who have been "charged with any criminal offense" or those who have "committed acts that constitute as a chargeable offense."

On the campaign trail, Trump has vacillated several times on the issue, at first indicating that all undocumented immigrants would be sent back" if they've done well they're going out and they're coming back in legally." Then he tempered his remarks to focus on undocumented immigrants who committed crimes.

But Trump's executive order appears to extend beyond this.

"Many aliens who illegally enter the United States and those who overstay or otherwise violate the terms of their visas present a significant threat to national security and public safety," the order states. "This is particularly so for aliens who engage in criminal conduct in the United States."

Anyone who came to the U.S. illegally -- that is without passing through border inspection committed a criminal misdemeanor and could fall into the priority removal category, legal experts tell ABC News.

While overstaying a visa is not a criminal offense, legal experts say that those who do so could fall under a vague clause in the executive order that undocumented immigrants who "have engaged in fraud or willful misrepresentation in connection with any official matter" are a priority for deportation as well.

"This is scary stuff for America's legacy of immigration, for business and for our hospitality," said Michael Wildes, an immigration attorney who formerly represented Trump Models, the Miss Universe Organization and Melania Trump.

"Lady Liberty is probably closing her eyes right now in New York Harbor."

The executive order is "remarkably broad," said David Martin, a University of Virginia School of Law professor who specializes in immigration, constitutional law and international law.

"This order takes that notion of 'criminal alien' to its farthest reaches," Martin continued.

A professor from Yale Law School, Peter Schuck, also called Trump's executive order "extraordinarily broad" and said that one provision that states "ensure that jurisdictions that fail to comply with applicable Federal law do not receive Federal funds" could be read to mean all federal funding, not just law enforcement assistance going to sanctuary cities such as San Francisco, Austin and New York.

The orders stipulate an increase in the number of border patrol enforcement officers and lay the groundwork for building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, a longtime campaign promise of Trump's.

"President Trump's fantasy of sealing the border with a wall is driven by racial and ethnic bias that disgraces America's proud tradition of protecting vulnerable migrants," said Omar Jadwat, the director of the ACLU's Immigrants' Rights Project.

"The DHS deportation force has a track record of racial profiling and excessive force abuses, and expanding it will further erode the rights of millions of people who call our safe border communities home. Locking up asylum seekers who pose no danger or flight risk is unconstitutional and benefits nobody except private prison corporations and politicians looking to score rhetorical points. We will see the Trump administration in court if they go down that road," Jadwat said in a statement.

ABC News' Serena Marshall and Jordyn Phelps contributed to this report.

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