President Obama on Thursday slammed Republican presidential hopeful Donald TrumpDonald TrumpHeadaches intensify for Democrats in Florida Stormy Daniels set to testify against former lawyer Avenatti in fraud trial Cheney challenger wins Wyoming Republican activists' straw poll MORE’s latest controversial plan to crack down on illegal immigration.
“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," Obama said in an interview with ABC News's George Stephanopoulos. "It would cost us hundreds of billions of dollars to execute that."
Obama’s rebuke came after Trump raised the possibility of creating a “deportation force” to remove immigrants living in the U.S. illegally.
“Nobody thinks that that is realistic. But more importantly, that’s not who we are as Americans.”
Immigration has emerged as one of the biggest wedge issues in the 2016 presidential race, thanks in large part to Trump’s inflammatory remarks about undocumented workers.
The real estate mogul renewed his calls for mass deportations during Tuesday night’s GOP primary debate in Milwaukee. But in doing so, he drew criticism from several of his rivals.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich called Trump’s plan “silly” and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush predicted Democrats would use the candidate’s heated rhetoric to scare off Hispanic voters from supporting Republicans.
“They’re doing high-fives in the Clinton campaign right now when they hear this,” Bush said.
Clinton on Wednesday called Trump’s plan “absurd, inhumane and un-American.”
Asked why some Americans might be attracted to Trump’s plan, Obama said he is tapping into “a strain of anti-immigrant sentiment in America, ironically, from folks who themselves two generations back or even one generation back were immigrants themselves.”
“It’s the job of leaders not to play into that sentiment,” he added. “We don’t want, I think, a president or any person in a position of leadership to play on those kinds of fears.”
During an interview Wednesday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Trump doubled down on his plans to deport the nation’s estimated 11.7 million illegal immigrants with a “deportation force.”
"You're going to have a deportation force," Trump said. "You're going to do it humanely.”