Can Trump Deliver On His Mass Deportation Pledge? Count Ken Buck Among The Skeptical

Photo: Ken Buck Official House Photo (3x2 crop)
Colorado Republican Representative Ken Buck serves the state's 4th Congressional District.

Republican Rep. Ken Buck doesn’t think Congress has the appetite to move on one of President-elect Donald Trump’s first priorities in office: deporting undocumented immigrants with criminal records. It’s a category Trump said applies to two to three million people, although many experts say the number is lower.

Buck, who was an immigration hard-liner when he was Weld County district attorney, is concerned that mass deportation could carry a “$50 or $60 billion” price tag. That's a tough hurdle to overcome, Buck said, given the country’s budget deficit and national debt.

“I don’t think there is the will in Congress to appropriate the kind of money that’s necessary to arrest two million or three million people, to put them through the necessary judicial process, and to deport them in a short period of time,” he said.

For Buck, it’s purely speculation at this point as to what Trump intends to do with those who are here illegally. Some of Trump’s own advisors have said mass deportation is unrealistic. And perhaps, Buck said, Trump has some sort of “self-deportation” program in mind, where undocumented residents would leave the country and apply for a U.S. visa.

“I’ll let you know in six months whether President Trump at the time is serious about large-scale deportations,” said Buck, who supported Ted Cruz in the primaries.

Trump has also pledged to withhold federal funding for so-called “sanctuary cities”, which protect undocumented immigrants by limiting cooperation with federal immigration authorities. Boulder is looking into becoming an official sanctuary city. Leaders and law enforcement in Denver and Aurora, which have no sanctuary ordinances, have said they would not take part in immigration enforcement for the federal government.

“It’s a mistake” for cities to have sanctuary status, Buck said, but when asked whether he agrees with Trump’s pledge to withhold funding for sanctuary cities his response is “we shouldn’t use a stick.”

Instead Buck wants to use the carrot.

“We should work together, and we should understand the priorities of different levels of the country, and we should try to overcome the need for penalties and punitive action.”

As Weld County district attorney, Buck made national headlines for immigration raids he orchestrated on local businesses. Following the 2006 Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids on JBS Swift-owned meat packing plants in six states — known as “Operation Wagon Train” — Ken Buck raided a tax-preparation business in an attempt to learn who was using false Social Security numbers. The Colorado Supreme Court later ruled that the 2008 Buck-led raid was unconstitutional.