Donald Trump has made countless bold claims when it comes to his future political agenda. Many of these plans do sound nice, if executed and carried out correctly, such as creating twenty-five million jobs here in America and significantly reducing taxes for all citizens. But how about his more controversial policies, such as immigration? The President-elect, Donald Trump, has a well-publicized fantasy of a “great wall” along our southern border, financed wholly by Mexico, of course. Whether twenty-five million jobs would benefit our country is easy to say. However, whether or not we should employ tactics of mass deportation is much harder to determine. When considering a President’s new ideas, one should look to two concrete things to judge those plans: history and money. Can we see if this has happened in the past, and if so, what was the situation and outcome? And secondly, is this a fiscally responsible hunt, in a country suffering from a national debt that has doubled to over $17 trillion in the last 8 years?
From D-Day to Rolling Thunder, many famous US government operations are revered in our history, but Operation Wetback is not one of them. This immigration initiative implemented in May of 1954 under President Dwight Eisenhower had a similar goal as Trump now does, to deport all illegal immigrants that came from Mexico. Teams of Border Patrol agents across the southwest apprehended illegal immigrants and they were deported back to Mexico. Mexican families were prosecuted regardless of true citizenship, and many American-born Mexican children were deported illegally. The people deemed as “illegals” were shipped back to Mexico, without a chance to recover their property in the US or to contact family members. The deportation methods were harsh at best; immigrants were sent to random locations far south in Mexico with no means of surviving. In one case, documented by historian and Columbia University professor Mae M. Ngai, eighty-eight deportees died of heat-related illness during a deportation trip to Mexico. The immigrants were also shipped by sea, from Port Isabel, Texas, to Veracruz, aboard ships carrying up to six times the safety capacity. A congressional investigation deemed one of the ships Mercurio to be a “hell ship” where abuse of deportees was popular, and the living conditions were awful. A ship with forty immigrant passengers mutinied soon after the investigation was published, and seven men drowned after jumping overboard.
While many reports went unverified, there were over eleven thousand documented complaints of abuse and violation of rights against border patrol agents by Mexican farmworkers between 1954 and 1964. Although the kind of misconduct of government agents in the 1950s would not necessarily happen today, the forceful removal of people from their homes will never be a peaceful task. Many people view the uprooting of families from their homes as a violation of human rights, and it is hard to disagree. Unfortunately, violence would result and human rights would be compromised from this deportation, which is not needed in a country where individual rights are at the center of many political discussions, and it is hard to forget the already increasing aggression against officers of the law in our society.
We must also keep in mind the financial cost of deportation versus the cost of allowing undocumented immigrants to stay. A reduction in annual US GDP by $1 trillion, a number projected by economist Doug Holtz-Eakin, former director of the congressional budget office during the presidency of George W Bush, should already be enough to show the pipe dream of deporting all illegal aliens is not realistic. Out of the roughly eleven million illegal immigrants, about 8 million are estimated to be part of the work force. Just over 6% of our workforce would disappear, estimated to shrink GDP by just less than 6%, from near $18 trillion to about $17 trillion.
What is not often discussed in anti-deportation circles, however, is the cost of keeping eleven million illegal immigrants in our country. According to the Federation for American Immigration Reform, illegal immigrants cost our government an estimated $113 billion dollars, with the bulk of that, nearly $52 billion, coming from educating the children of those immigrants. About 75% of the cost of illegal immigrants falls on local and state governments, while only roughly 5% of those costs are recouped from illegal immigrants in state and local taxes. Surprisingly enough, federally sponsored health care for illegal immigrants only makes up roughly 5.2% of the total cost. Illegal immigrants do pay $13 billion in federal taxes a year though, leaving taxpayers an estimated $100 billion cost.
The American Action Forum found that the cost of deporting all illegal immigrants in the US in a two-year period would cost $400 to $600 billion. The cost to taxpayers of the Donald Trump official immigration plan, found on donaldjtrump.com, would be only $40 billion over a five-year span, according to the National Taxpayer Union Foundation. This figure even includes our federal government funding of the infamous wall that will be our Southern border. Trump’s main proposals on his website are to build the wall, return all criminal illegal aliens to their countries, and triple the number of ICE agents. He does not mention the promise of deporting all illegal aliens.
Although harboring illegal immigrants may bring a large financial burden upon us taxpayers, total deportation is not the answer. The hypothesized effects are informative and current, but should be secondary to what we already know. We know our country has tried this tactic of widespread illegal immigrant deportation, and we should be aware of the effects. We recognize our country needs immigration reform and better enforcement of current laws, just as much as it needs the productive, hardworking and peaceful illegal immigrant population.