The Sobering Costs of Mass Deportation (Removal)16 Nov 2010
The most ardent immigration restrictionists like to entertain fantasies of a massive government roundup, to arrest every last illegal immigrant and summarily deport (the correct term now is “remove”) them. Such fantasies gained remarkable currency in the recent election season, migrating from the outermost fringes of respectable political discourse to the inner circle of the GOP leadership.
A prominent immigration commentator, Ruben Navarrette, Jr., noted in a recent article just how far the political pendulum has swung, now that “all seven Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee – Charles Grassley, Jon Kyl, John Cornyn, Orrin Hatch, Lindsey Graham, Tom Coburn, and Jeff Sessions – have signed a letter asking Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to ‘detail exactly how much funding’ would be needed to ‘ensure that enforcement of the law occurs consistently for every illegal alien encountered and apprehended.'” (See Republicans Can’t Talk About Immigration Enforcement, by Ruben Navarrette, Jr., San Francisco Chronicle, 03.Nov.2010.)
The director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) told Navarrette that his agency gets $2.6 billion a year to detain and remove illegal immigrants – about 400,000 per year. Thus, by Navarrette’s calculations, it would cost about $65 billion – as in “billion” with a “b” – to remove the 10 million or so illegal immigrants now living in the United States. Still more funds would be needed to pay for all of the lawsuits arising out of false arrest and racial profiling claims, Navarrette observes, further inflating the cost by some significant multiplier. Then there’s the problem of people sneaking back in, and human traffickers get rich on the higher fees they could charge to get people across the border, says Navarrette, pointed out:
“As incredible as it sounds, deporting millions of illegal immigrants would be disruptive to Americans’ way of life. As Morton pointed out, there would likely be massive and debilitating labor shortages, especially in those industries that currently depend more heavily than they should on illegal immigrant labor.”
The solution? Navarrette makes a convincing case that it’s time for GOP leaders to abandon the deport-them-all rhetoric, to stop conflating the usefulness of a political tool with its advisability as a policy solution. Confusing the issue only makes its ultimate resolution that much harder to achieve.