Friday, August 21, 2015

Enforcing Massive Deportation Would Be Massively Foolish Policy

Presidential election season seems to be getting earlier and earlier over time. Not only that, it is one of those moments where "candidates say the darnedest things." Take Donald Trump as an example. He wants to deport all the undocumented immigrants in this country. Trump is playing the "blame the recently arrived immigrants" card, which is almost as old as American politics itself. The question here is where Trump's idea of mass deportation would actually work or not.

Let's just reflect for a minute on what this would actually mean if we were to implement that sort of policy. It would mean taking financial resources and hundreds upon hundreds of government man-hours to find, apprehend, legally process, transport the individuals to their country of origin, and rigorously enforce border control to make sure none of them cross over again. Especially considering that such anti-immigration policies push labor to the underground markets, it makes me wonder about feasibility of being able to track most, if not all, these undocumented immigrants. There is a question of the policy's popularity (CBS poll and Gallup vs Rasmussen). Even if popularity didn't matter and the incoming president were to enforce a law requiring mass deportation, it would cost a lot of money.

It's not only the Left-leaning Center for American Progress who puts a hefty price tag [of $114 billion] on such a policy, not to mention the social and emotional damage it would cause communities. The Right-leaning American Action Forum actually puts an even higher price tag of $400-600 billion. Reducing the labor market like that would also shrink the economy by $1.6 trillion over a twenty-year time span. When Alabama instituted its own version of Trump's proposal, it cost the Alabama economy $11 billion. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated that it would reduce agricultural output by 5 percent and American wages by 1 percent. To think that mass deportation would help with employment rates is also ludicrous since the states with the highest Hispanic populations have a Hispanic population that exceeds the unemployment rate for those states, which means that even if everyone born in the U.S. took their jobs, there would still be considerable unemployment.

The other issue with Trump's idea is the assumption that having these people in the country is a problem, and it's not. This does not even account for the fact that 87 percent of undocumented workers don't have a serious criminal record or that the undocumented immigrant population has plateaued since 2007. The truth of the matter is that more legal immigration would boost the economy. I could make an argument for open borders, but the point of the matter is that the system isn't broke because of not enough enforcement, but making too much of an effort to enforce. We make it so hard to enforce that we have not provided a clear path for those who want to work here contribute to the American economy and society. Using an enforcement-only policy is as costly as it is counterproductive. Instead of using nativist rhetoric to invoke anti-immigrant sentiment, which isn't going to help the GOP win the Hispanic vote, how about making an actual attempt at immigration reform that would boost the economy?

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