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Arthur Brooks is a leading conservative, but he disagrees with the GOPS front-runner on immigration

He said it's not realistic to think the U.S. could deport 11 million undocumented immigrants

Editor’s Note: The Axe Files, featuring David Axelrod, is a podcast distributed by CNN and produced at the University of Chicago Institute of Politics. The author works at the institute.

Chicago CNN —  

Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump’s plan to deport millions of undocumented immigrants is immoral and unrealistic, according to Arthur Brooks, the conservative president of the American Enterprise Institute.

“It’s not realistic to think that he would kick (out) 11 million people … and I actually don’t think that Donald Trump thinks that that’s going to happen,” Brooks told David Axelrod on “The Axe Files,” a podcast produced by CNN and the University of Chicago Institute of Politics. “I think he’s making an opening bid on what he thinks is an important movement, which is to deport as many people as he possibly can.

He added: “And I disagree with that. I don’t think it’s a good idea. It’s probably not constitutional for a lot of different reasons, but beyond that I think that it doesn’t pass the test of basic morality.”

“The idea of trying to round up 11 million people who are here illegally, through a knock in the night and a police force, and getting them all on buses or planes and kicking them out, I think it’s pretty ridiculous,” he said.

Deportation, Brooks said, should be reserved for undocumented immigrants with criminal records, while members of Congress should find a way to agree on a path to legalization for law-abiding immigrants.

“There are a lot of people who have criminal records and those are the people you’d want to be talking about deportation,” he said. “But in the cases of people who are here working, paying taxes, taking care of their families, working here in an upstanding way, legalizing people with guest worker permits, with temporary worker visas, I think that probably both sides could come together on this.”

Once these immigrants have been legalized, Brooks said, they should also be able to “get citizenship somewhere down the line.”

“I think where the disagreement comes in is how quickly that occurs,” he said. “I have a lot of liberal friends and family who would … allow people who are not citizens to vote. So just dispense with citizenship entirely and go right to the voting process.”

“I bet that we could come to find some sort of a compromise where people wait in line for a certain amount of time, get behind people who were in the line legally, pay a fine, and there’s citizenship somewhere at the end of the process,” he said.

However, in 2013, a bipartisan Senate measure crafted broadly along these lines did not even receive a vote in the Republican-controlled House.

Brooks, the author of the new book “The Conservative Heart,” added: “I think the way I want conservatism to look in this country is very humanistic.”

To hear the whole interview with Brooks, which also touched on his time studying music in California, his move to Barcelona and impressions of Europe, the need for fiscally conservative policies, and more, click on

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