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Building a Wall

Republicans, especially their presidential candidates, seem unified in their desire to rid the country of illegal immigrants. Yes, I know, they are only in favor of this in order to get votes from their troglodyte base, but it still would be helpful for someone to look into what it would take in order to actually remove every undocumented worker from our country.

Well, someone has done this. A center-right think tank did the work and here are their numbers. As a preface, I admit that anyone can argue with their numbers, but only if they present some actual facts that disagree with their numbers.

“The cost to remove the entire undocumented immigrant population in the U.S. and prevent future unlawful immigration over the next 20 years is $400-600 billion.” One can hardly imagine that it would cost much less. Can you even imagine the effort it would take to track down all the illegal aliens and deporting them? This cost only includes what it would take to “apprehend, detail, legally process, and transport the immigrants, plus the ongoing price to keep additional undocumented immigrants out of the U.S.” The true cost would probably be even higher, as there would be no money spent on prevention, such as the cost of “finishing the border fence, drastically increasing the number of ICE and Border Patrol officers, building additional detention facilities, and addressing the years-long immigration court backlog.”

Now here’s the interesting part: That would not be the most costly thing. Their (conservative) estimates are that even if we could magically remove every illegal immigrant from the US at no cost, there would be a tremendous hit to the economy. The real GDP would decline by $1.6 trillion.

What’s ironic about this is that people want to deport illegal immigrants because “they are stealing our jobs”. But if we actually deported them, we would lose far more jobs because of the economic hit.

Indeed, the same report says that reducing legal (not illegal) immigration in order to “protect” American workers would actually hurt American workers more than it would help.

I’ve always said I’m a pragmatist. I’m tired of people blaming our problems on immigrants (illegal or otherwise). (If we want to deport someone, how about if we start with the bankers who caused the Great Recession?)

Seriously, let’s have some proposals for immigration reform that increases legal immigration and focuses on skills. That would benefit our economy and not waste money on stupid border walls.



  1. David Freeman wrote:

    ‘Troglodyte base’ feels a little harsh to me but I’m struggling to come up with a more nuanced yet pithy phrase. People who are hate filled jerks due to their ignorance are not evil to the same extent as the jerks who should or do know better but selfishly encourage and amplify ignorance for their own benefit.

    Though their anger is deeply offensive, honestly wouldn’t you be hoisting a pitchfork too if you believed the vile vomit spewed by Fox and Fiends and the other masters of delusion on the Right?

    Monday, August 24, 2015 at 8:12 am | Permalink
  2. David Freeman wrote:

    … comment above was NOT intended to minimize or distract from your excellent commentary on immigration!

    Monday, August 24, 2015 at 8:15 am | Permalink
  3. Ralph wrote:

    Agreed, David, it’s hard to come up with a superlative that adequately describes those large and inscrutable groups of people who cluelessly, seemingly willfully, ignore the facts on the ground, vote against their own self-interests, and then blame their losing candidates for not being far-right enough! I just throw up my hands and call them Republi-cants. What’s disturbing is how they have captured many state legislatures and governerships, which apparently gives them the confidence to think they can spread their bogus and failed policies (see: Kansas, Wisconsin) to the rest of the country. Democrats often disappoint me, but Republicants just leave me perplexed and dismayed.

    Trump must know (he may be a hate-filled jerk, but he’s not bat-shit ignorant) that immigration has been a net zero the past several years, but of course can’t say that because it’s counter to the red meat he needs to throw at these early crowds, desperate for a Savior to deliver them from the party of their own making. So he promises them the Trump Wall and massive deportation to satisfy their xenophobia and figures he can walk that back to something approaching reality if or when the time comes. Even more than Romney, he’s flip-flopped so many times in the past, his flock would hardly notice another, he figures, because Hey, I’m rich in case you haven’t heard, and I hate to tell ya but that other guy’s a stupid loser! And, admittedly, the one thing he’s got going for him over his closest rival (poor JEB!) is that it’s actually believable when he says “I’m my own man”.

    Ah, my Monday rant, thanks for the platform IK!

    Monday, August 24, 2015 at 10:16 am | Permalink
  4. John wrote:

    Anyone with even a basic understanding of economics has heard “supply and demand” and yet, when was the last time any member of the GOP-dominated Congress proposed legislation which would make it a criminal federal offense with fines on the order of a year’s wages at minimum wage, per person hired, for the first offense, to offer employment to anyone who has not first been vetted by the eVerify system? And a year in jail, again per person hired, for the second offense?

    A third offense, I believe, would be very unlikely.

    It isn’t as if using eVerify would solve the “problem” conservatives have created as an effort to find votes, but the posturing over silly proposals which involve huge sums of taxpayer dollars with NO effect on or risk to the people creating the demand in the first place is just a waste of everyone’s time.

    When is the last time any of us heard about the harsh penalty imposed on a company or corporate officer for failing to use even this simple system?


    Monday, August 24, 2015 at 1:50 pm | Permalink
  5. Iron Knee wrote:

    The anti-immigrant forces are reacting to this report. In the interest of being “fair and balanced”, here’s Breitbart’s response —

    They claim that for every illegal migrant household that is deported, the US government would save $719,350. However, they kind of wave their hands in coming up with this number.

    They do make the same point that John does — that enforcing E-verify or tracking visas would reduce the number of illegal immigrants by reducing demand.

    Monday, August 24, 2015 at 6:22 pm | Permalink
  6. ebdoug wrote:

    Not following anything conservative, you had me fooled. I thought that Breitbart had died which turns out is true (2012) leaving vile news in his wake.

    Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 6:06 am | Permalink
  7. Hassan wrote:

    Just want to share an observation, I see things in America are usually being ignored (purposely?) when they are small, and then when issue gets out of control they say we cannot afford to fix the mess because it will cost too much.

    Healthcare and immigration are examples. Affordable healthcare could have been tackled long time ago, but now the solution to problem (insurance) has become problem itself. And then instead of tackling original problem, government tackles the secondary issue.

    In immigration, if you want more liberal/lenient immigration policies, more than welcome, but unless you enforce policies from start, this mess will never stop.

    Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 10:12 am | Permalink
  8. John wrote:

    Knee… The same point about putting employers in jail for hiring undocumented workers was also made by Molly Ivins years ago… in case your note about Breitbart was to give the idea a conservative spin. The point was that, the people who talk the loudest about illegal immigration being a problem just happen to (mostly) be the employers who benefit the most by paying low wages and not contributing dime one to many of their employees’ social security (they don’t have it) or health care insurance (or that, either).

    The people who directly or indirectly HIRE undocumented workers are clearly the ones who benefit most financially by exploiting them.

    Yes, there’s the old song and dance about how these people are better off than when they were in their native countries, which is why they came here in the first place. My ancestors said the same thing. The difference is that my ancestors were not forced to live in an underground economy with fear of deportation if they admitted to being here. They had to compete, yes, but the fact that they were not forced underground made the playing field much more level.

    The current version of immigration law with little or no penalty for employers encourages exploitation on a scale not seen before anti-immigrant laws were passed, and borders on outright slavery.

    Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 1:16 pm | Permalink
  9. ebdoug wrote:

    The immigrants who come from south of us, are coming to their native country. that’s the way the wave from the Bering Strait happened. Their ancestors were here long before anyone called “white” arrived.

    Wednesday, August 26, 2015 at 6:27 am | Permalink
  10. wildwood wrote:

    No one seems to notice that we have usurped the use of “American”. Everyone in this hemisphere is an American. Not just us.

    Wednesday, August 26, 2015 at 9:13 am | Permalink
  11. PATRIOTSGT wrote:

    John – there are laws on the books which could punish employers with hefty fines for hiring unlawfully present workers. The fines range from $250 to $10,000 depending on the # of times and severity of the infractions. However, currently enforcement is discouraged and agencies are generally not allowed to enforce those laws, which have been around in some form since 1952.

    The last time I witnessed them being enforced was for a particularly egregious violator in 2006. The gov’t seized over $600,000 dollars from the business. Interestingly about 1/3 of the workers detained were released because of dependent children in the household. The others were presumably deported.

    So like so many things these days we have the laws, but we don’t enforce them, then like HASSAN said the problem gets to big to solve and so politicians wring their hands and dodge responsibility until the next big thing comes along.

    Wednesday, August 26, 2015 at 10:32 am | Permalink
  12. me wrote:

    Wildwood, in Esperanto, a US-american is a usono. So a few have noticed.

    Thursday, August 27, 2015 at 9:38 am | Permalink
  13. Iron Knee wrote:

    I have to say I was a bit surprised at the reaction to my use of the word “troglodyte”. My dictionary gives three definitions. They are: “a person who lived in a cave”, “a hermit”, and “a person who is regarded as being deliberately ignorant or old-fashioned”. I obviously meant the third definition. It sure seems less harsh than calling them “idiots” or “assholes”.

    Thursday, August 27, 2015 at 11:01 am | Permalink