The British government has brought in two vans to circle around London, displaying billboards that warn undocumented immigrants to “Go Home Or Face Arrest.”
The effort, which is being piloted by the U.K’s Home Office — similar to our Department of Homeland Security — is meant to encourage people to leave the country before they are deported. As part of the effort, the vans not only display a number that undocumented people can text for help, but also show the tally of people who have been arrested in the area where the vans are circling:
The vans are driving through six London boroughs — Hounslow, Barking & Dagenham, Ealing, Barnet, Brent and Redbridge. Those neighborhoods have particularly high immigrant populations.
The billboard program evokes the idea of “self-deportation” that then-Presidential candidate Mitt Romney embraced; the concept that government can make an environment so hostile to undocumented people that they choose to leave voluntarily. In fact, the public comment from British Immigration Minister Mark Harpe says essentially that: “We are making it more difficult for people to live and work in the UK illegally,” Harpe said. “Every single day our enforcement officers are arresting, detaining and removing people with no right to be in the UK.”
It also embraces the British push for austerity; one of the main reasons Harpe cites for encouraging self-deportation is because it’s particularly cost-effective. But actually, immigrants have been a boon for the British economy. And they could be more so if more of them were legalized. In 2009, after London Mayor Boris Johnson called for amnesty for undocumented immigrants in the U.K., a study by the London School of Economics concluded that the British economy would reap £3 billion a year from legalization. Tax revenues, too, would grow by £842 million.
Just this month Johnson again called for amnesty for undocumented immigrants who’d been in the country for 10 to 12 years.