This past weekend, Georgia congressional candidates Rep. Jim Marshall (D-GA) and challenger Austin Scott (R-GA) squared off in a debate held in Atlanta. During the course of the discussion, both candidates were asked several times about immigration. When pressed on what he plans to do about the undocumented population already in the U.S., Scott briefly indicated that he supports a policy of mass deportation:
QUESTION: How would you propose to deal with the 10-12 million undocumented or illegal workers who are here now?
SCOTT: Yes m’am. I just think we just simply have to return them to their homeland, just as the way we do it right now with those that we are able to catch. It’s just that we’d have to step up the number of people and resources in those positions.
Perhaps Scott isn’t aware of the costs associated with “stepping up” immigration enforcement and implementing a mass deportation policy. Earlier this year, the Center for American Progress (CAP) estimated that a strategy aimed at deporting the nation’s population of undocumented immigrants would total approximately $285 billion over five years, amounting to $922 in new taxes for “every man, woman, and child in this country.” An earlier report backed by the Cato Institute similarly found that in the unlikely event that all undocumented immigrants were removed from the economy, it would reduce U.S. GDP by $2.6 trillion over ten years.
Even the most rabid immigration restrictionists usually don’t advocate a policy of mass deportation. Besides the costs associated with undertaking the project, pro- and anti- immigration advocates generally agree that it would be virtually impossible to hunt down every single undocumented immigrant and ship them back to their “homeland.”
Hardline anti-immigrant activists tend to prefer the “attrition through enforcement” approach — 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.
Scott’s opponent supports focusing on the employer, stating “if we can cut off the jobs, that’s the most cost-effective way for us to stop the flow of illegal immigrants into this country.”