How The U.S. Could Spend Billions Instead Of Deporting Immigrants Protected By Obama’s New Policy


It would cost roughly $50.3 billion to deport five million undocumented immigrants, the population eligible for President Obama’s latest executive action on immigration relief, a Center for American Progress (CAP) report released Monday found. The estimate comes from the number of eligible beneficiaries for the president’s latest executive action that would grant temporary work authorization and provide deportation leniency to some undocumented immigrants. Republicans want to roll back on the deferred action programs through attached amendments on a must-pass Department of Homeland Security (DHS) funding bill. Current DHS funding runs out on February 27.

The CAP study found that the average cost of deporting just one immigrant hovers around $10,070, an estimate based on the time, effort, and resources to apprehend people who qualify under the expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) programs. Under those programs, people must have been in the country since 2010. That type of interior deportation would cost more than “the less resource-intense removals that occur as people attempt to cross the border,” the report stated. “It takes more time, effort, and resources to apprehend someone who has been living in the country for years under the radar — and the contemporary unauthorized immigrant population has been living in the country for an average of 12.7 years.”

CREDIT: Philip Wolgin/ Center for American Progress
CREDIT: Philip Wolgin/ Center for American Progress

Indeed, deporting five million undocumented immigrants costs about the same as “the annual budget of more than half of the cabinet-level government agencies.” It also exceeds “the gross domestic product, or GDP, of more than 100 countries,” the report found.

Here are a few ways that the government could instead use to spend $50.3 billion:

Putting 291,715 immigration agents at the southern U.S. border. Republicans have often balked that there isn’t enough border security on the southern border, even rejecting the Senate’s comprehensive immigration bill in 2013 because some felt that it lacked enough measures to stop migrant border crossers crossing the southern United States — Mexico border. With $50 billion, the United States could hire roughly 291,715 Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agent at a cost of $171,400 per agent per year, according to the Washington Office of Latin America. That would mean that there could be 150 agents guarding every mile of the 1,933 mile southern border.

Giving 4.97 million homeless people a permanent shelter. For roughly the amount it costs to deport five million immigrants, the government could provide housing for 4.97 million homeless people. A 2014 Central Florida Commission on Homelessness study found that it would cost taxpayers just $10,051 per homeless person per year to give them a permanent place to live and services like job training and health care.

Commissioning 50 more Coast Guard’s special vessels that could cut through thick Arctic and Antarctic ice. Last week, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson said that a “clean” DHS funding bill free of immigration amendments was necessary because “contract negotiations to construct USCG’s 8th National Security Cutter will be delayed, causing a significant increase in costs.” At a cost of roughly $1 billion per vessel, the U.S. could commission 50 icebreakers, like the Polar Star, which was used to free an Austrian fishing vessel trapped in ice about 900 miles from Antarctica nearly two weeks. Twenty-six people were abroad and stuck for three days. A United States Naval Institute article stated, “Once a year the Coast Guard sends an icebreaker to clear the way to NSF McMurdo Station in Antarctica to clear a channel to the station for resupply and transport of NSF scientists for research missions.”

Coast Guard vessels are seasonal necessities for Americans in the United States, as well. Johnson said that “National Security Cutters perform drug interdiction and other law enforcement operations in the maritime approaches to the U.S. border, protect our marine resources, and perform other critical maritime defense and security operations.” He also added that other Coast Guard ships are used along thousands of miles of U.S. coast line to keep sea lanes “free of winter ice to facilitate delivery of cargo like home heating oil to households in New England and the Great Lakes, and recover spilled oil that results from major disasters like the BP Deepwater Horizon spill.” The past two weeks saw record snowfalls in places like Bangor, Maine, which this month gained the distinction of the coldest month on record in 21 years.

The study also found that Florida residents paid about $31,065 per chronically homeless person every year they live on the streets. That estimate hews closely to the $40,000 figure that U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan stated in 2012 when he said that the rate includes the expenses of hospital visits and jail time.

Funding the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)’s fiscal year budget for nearly three years. The 2015 White House budget proposal for NASA is $18.5 billion, a third of the cost to deport five million undocumented immigrants. NASA programs that would get funded involve science, aeronautics space technology exploration, space operations, education safety, security, and mission services, construction and environmental compliance and restoration, and the inspector general. Eminent astrophysicist Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson once said that funding NASA is “what inspires dreams.”

Keeping Congress in session for 1,651 extra days. According to figures obtained from the 2012 fiscal year Legislative Branch Appropriations bill and tweeted out by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), it costs roughly $30.3 million to keep Congress open for a single work day. Last year, Congress was in session for 113 days, though as Roll Call pointed out, “the work doesn’t end when lawmakers leave Washington” since Congressional members also work in their districts.