WASHINGTON — Donald Trump said he wants to deport everyone who is in the United States illegally, but he doesn’t want to talk about how much it would cost.
One study by the American Action Forum, a conservative proimmigration group, estimated that mass deportation would cost from $400 billion to $600 billion over a decade, and reduce US economic growth by $1.6 trillion.
“Well, first of all, they’re wrong,” Trump, a Republican presidential candidate, said about the estimate, without elaborating.
Speaking on ABC’s “This Week,’’ Trump argued instead that undocumented immigrants are costing the country money and he would rely on “good management” to deport the estimated 11.3 million people in the country illegally.
“You have so many illegals,” he said. “We don’t even know how many illegals. I hear 11 million. I hear 30 million. The government has no idea. We have lost control of our country. We’ve lost control of our borders.”
Trump attacked rival Jeb Bush, who supports granting legal status to undocumented immigrants, and said Bush could never carry out mass deportation.
“Jeb is a very low-energy person,” he said. “He’d never be able to do it. He’s the one that said they come out of an act of love.”
Trump has also proposed ending birthright citizenship for children born here to illegal immigrants. Under the Constitution, people born in the United States, including the children of illegal immigrants, have automatic citizenship.
Bush and Governor John Kasich of Ohio, who is also seeking the GOP nomination, last week spoke in favor of leaving the constitutional protection in place. Bush supports greater enforcement to stop pregnant women from crossing the border to have their children in the United States.
In his interview Sunday, Trump also accused Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin, another Republican hopeful, of backpedaling after signaling his support last week for ending birthright citizenship.
“Scott Walker has changed his mind now,” he said, “because he keeps going back to his pollster, and his pollster says, ‘Oh, Trump has a good idea. Oh, Trump has a bad idea. Oh, no, wait a minute, Trump has a good idea.’ ’’
Appearing on the ABC program, Walker said he doesn’t support a constitutional amendment to repealing or altering birthright citizenship. “Any discussion that goes beyond securing the border and enforcing the laws are things that should be a red flag to voters out there,” Walker said.
The debate over Trump’s proposal to end birthright citizenship is a distraction from what the nation needs to do to stem the tide of illegal immigration, several Republican presidential candidates said Sunday.
On the television network news talk shows, the GOP hopefuls said enforcing US immigration laws would resolve the problem without having to go through what they see as an impractical effort to end it with a constitutional amendment, the Associated Press reported.
Every campaign, candidates ‘‘hold up some bright, shiny object — ‘Oh, let’s talk about birthright citizenship,’ ’’ Carly Fiorina said on NBC’s ‘‘Meet the Press.’’ “Let us focus our political energies on doing what the government is responsible for doing, secure the border and fix the legal immigration system.’’
The former Hewlett-Packard chief executive said the federal government cannot keep track of foreign visitors who overstay visas and has failed at putting into place a system for employers to verify the legal status of prospective workers.
Appearing on CBS’s ‘‘Face the Nation,’’ Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey, who opposes amending the Constitution over birthright citizenship, echoed Fiorina. He said the issue is ‘‘an applause line.’’
‘‘Let’s talk about the things that we can fix and fix simply without having to amend the Constitution,’’ said Christie.
Native-born children of immigrants — even those living illegally in the United States — have been automatically considered American citizens since the adoption of the 14th Amendment in 1868.
The call to secure the border as a first priority is a familiar one in the GOP field. It has at times become a way to avoid taking a stand on more contentious immigration issues, such as whether the millions of people in the country illegally should be offered a path to citizenship or at least legal status.
Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, speaking on CNN’s ‘‘State of the Union,’’ dismissed the idea that the controversial use of the term ‘‘anchor baby’’— a child born in the United States to parents in the country illegally — was a racial slur. ‘‘It’s silly political correctness,’’ he said.
‘‘Everybody knows what we are talking about,’’ said Carson. ‘‘We need to talk about the actual issue and stop getting pulled off into the weeds, and saying, you can use this term, you can’t use that term.’’
Senator Ted Cruz of Texas said enforcing existing immigration laws would solve the problem without having to amend the Constitution, a process he said would take years to accomplish.
The odds of repealing the amendment’s citizenship clause would be steep, requiring the votes of two-thirds of both houses of Congress and support from three-fourths of the nation’s state legislatures.
Republicans in Congress have repeatedly failed since 2011 to pass bills aimed at ending birthright citizenship.Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.