New Study Estimates Mass Deportation Of Undocumented Immigrants Would Cost $285 Billion

deportationThis weekend, several thousands of people are expected to gather on the National Mall to demand action on immigration reform. The immigration restrictionist group NumbersUSA is meanwhile responding with a four-day campaign to “stop amnesty” which starts today.

However, a study released this afternoon by the Center for American Progress shows that the enforcement-only approach that restrictionist groups incessantly advocate for isn’t sustainable in the long-term. CAP estimates that a strategy aimed at deporting the nation’s population of undocumented immigrants would total approximately $285 billion over five years. According to the report, a deportation-only policy would amount to $922 in new taxes for “every man, woman, and child in this country”:

The undeniable conclusion from these findings is that the federal price tag to deport all undocumented immigrants currently in the United States is prohibitive. The operational feasibility of such a massive effort is dubious at best. It would require an unprecedented deployment of resources, and the problems currently plaguing our detention system and immigration courts would be exacerbated in the extreme and would likely precipitate widespread human rights and due process violations. Moreover, a mass deportation strategy would have a crippling impact on economic growth. The exorbitant direct costs of such a strategy detailed in this report should be the final nail in the coffin of a moribund idea.

Groups that support an enforcement-only approach to immigration insist that they do not advocate a policy of mass deportation, but rather support an “attrition through enforcement” strategy — a harsh strategy used to “wear down the will” of undocumented immigrants through increased deportations, detentions, and anti-immigrant ordinances. According to these groups, many immigrants will choose to deport themselves at minimal cost to the U.S. taxpayer. However, research has shown that ramped up enforcement doesn’t drive most immigrants back to their home countries, rather it only pushes them deeper into the shadows.

Even if the U.S. didn’t aim to deport every single undocumented immigrant, the costs associated with any large-scale deportation program like the anti-immigration groups propose are significant. CAP estimates that it costs $23,148 for each person to be apprehended, detained, legally processed, and finally transported
out of the country. ICE deported 349,041 immigrants during the 2008 fiscal year ending September 30. Using CAP’s estimates, that means that the government spent approximately $8,079,601,068 last year alone.

Ultimately, anti-immigration groups couldn’t even wish undocumented immigrants away for free. In a paper released in January, UCLA professor Raúl Hinojosa-Ojeda published research which found that if undocumented immigrants were removed from the economy, it would reduce U.S. GDP by $2.6 trillion over ten years. Hinojosa-Ojeda also affirmed that if undocumented immigrants were put on an earned path to legalization as part of a comprehensive immigration reform package, it would result in at least $1.5 trillion in added U.S. gross domestic product over 10 years.

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