As part of his stern stance on illegal immigration, Donald Trump plans to have his administration impose mandatory minimum sentences on people convicted of illegally re-entering the country.
Trump has argued that too many immigrants illegally in the country are committing crimes and making their way to the United States as a result of inadequate border security and lax law enforcement.
"On my first day in office, I am also going to ask Congress to pass 'Kate's Law' – named for Kate Steinle – to ensure that criminal aliens convicted of illegal re-entry receive strong mandatory minimum sentences," Trump said during an immigration speech in Phoenix in August 2016.
WHY HE'S PROMISING IT
Trump has said "there is only one core issue in the immigration debate and it is this: the well-being of the American people."
Stronger U.S. borders, the enforcement of current immigration laws and tougher policies will prevent deaths of Americans by people who don't have legal permission to be in the country, he has said.
Thousands of Americans have been killed by immigrants illegally in the country, Trump has claimed. He has cited as an example 32-year-old Kate Steinle, killed in San Francisco. A Mexican man who had been deported five times is charged with second-degree murder in Steinle's death and has pleaded not guilty. His trial is set to start Feb. 17.
WHAT NEEDS TO HAPPEN
Trump would need Congress to pass measures that set mandatory minimum sentences.
Trump has expressed support for Kate's Law, a bill introduced in the Senate in 2015 that among other things, sought to amend law to establish a five-year mandatory minimum prison term for individuals who re-enter the country after being removed "following a conviction for an aggravated felony or following 2 or more prior convictions for illegal re-entry."
Trump also has suggested an End Illegal Immigration Act that would set a two-year mandatory minimum federal prison sentence for individuals who illegally re-enter the United States after being deported.
Individuals who illegally re-enter and who have felony convictions, multiple misdemeanor convictions or have previously been deported twice or more, would have to serve a five-year mandatory minimum sentence, Trump said.
Under current law, someone convicted of illegally re-entering the country and who has no significant criminal history can face a maximum penalty of two years in prison. Individuals convicted of illegally re-entering the country and who have criminal convictions can face up to 20 years in prison.
A total of 15,715 people were convicted of illegal re-entry in fiscal year 2015, according to the U.S. Sentencing Commission.
The average sentence served was 16 months.
HOW MUCH WILL IT COST
Trump has not outlined costs for this proposal.
Using data from the U.S. Sentencing Commission, Molly Gill, director of federal legislative affairs for Families Against Mandatory Minimums, estimates it can lead to $1.3 billion a year in incarceration costs.
Estimates for similar proposals also have come in the multi-billion-dollar-a-year range.
A letter sent to Senate leaders in July 2016 by the American Civil Liberties Union, and more than 20 other human rights and advocacy organizations in opposition to Kate's Law, estimated costs would be "$3.1 billion over the next 10 years just for people with a prior aggravated felony conviction" and require the opening of more federal prisons at additional costs.
The American Bar Association in July 2015 also sent lawmakers a letter opposing several proposals with a five-year mandatory minimum sentence for illegal re-entry, pegging their costs at nearly $2 billion a year.
WHAT'S STANDING IN HIS WAY
Trump's plan is likely to face opposition from organizations seeking to reform the criminal justice system.
New mandatory minimum sentences for immigration offenses would be expensive, make immigration enforcement more difficult and divert public safety resources, Gill contends.
Senate and House Democrats may oppose Trump's plan, and its potential costs may raise concerns from fiscal conservatives, Gill said.
Criminal law experts also told us this plan will likely revive talks about private prisons -- President Barack Obama's administration in 2016 decided not to renew contracts with private prisons for federal inmates, citing concerns over their effectiveness and safety.
"If a Trump Administration increases the penalties for illegal entry/re-entry, then there will necessarily be an increase in the number of detainees, and that may re-open discussions of using private facilities to house those individuals," said Phil Torrey, a lecturer on law and senior clinical instructor with the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program.
A timeline depends on Congress' support and passing of a bill that backs Trump's goal.