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What Would It Cost to Deport Illegal Aliens?

And what would it save us?

Imagine that you came home tomorrow and found a stranger living in your home.  Would you pay $148 to have him removed, or would you instead just legally adopt him and give him the run of the place to save the $148?  The Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank in Washington, D.C., thinks the “practical” thing to do would be adopt the “undocumented family member” that broke into your home. 

At least, that is what I can extrapolate from the report they released last week purporting to document the true cost of deporting –rather than amnestying– the 10 million illegal aliens that have smuggled themselves into our homeland over the past two decades.  According to the study, which was dutifully reported by the Washington Post and others, it would cost the Federal Government $41 billion per year over the next five years to take the “draconian” step of actually enforcing our immigration laws. 

Let’s pretend, for just a moment, that the ghost of the bloody Greek King Dracon is not laughing hysterically at the idea that being deported home in an air-conditioned bus is now considered “draconian.”  And while we’re in fantasyland, let us also pretend that the $41 billion per year figure is even remotely accurate.  The Federal Government has an annual budget of $2.34 trillion per year.  Our Gross Domestic Product is a staggering $12 trillion per year.  $41 billion would be just 1.7% of the Federal budget, and a miniscule 0.34% of our GDP.

Yet the Center for American Progress would have us believe that this sum is so far beyond us that we should instead surrender our country to whomever shows up in whatever numbers, rather than pay it.  To put it in perspective, 0.34% would be $148 for someone earning $43,527 per year, the median family income in America.  Unless you have really bad taste, this is probably what you paid for the locksets in your home. 

And immigration enforcement serves the exact same purpose as those locks: allowing us to choose who comes into our home to live with us, and who is kept out.  Immigration is a long American tradition, and it can be a benefit to our society and our economy, but not if it is unregulated.  Many of us had ancestors that passed through Ellis Island.  This was not just a rest stop on the way to the next exit.  Ellis Island was an immigrant screening center.  America has always retained the right to screen entrants, separate the bad from the good, and deport those deemed harmful.  Uncontrolled immigration is ludicrous.  A nation without the most basic power of all — the power to defend its own border — invites lawlessness and disaster, especially after September 11th. 

Controlling who may enter our country is not optional.  It must be done, and it is a bargain at just 0.34% of our income, a measly $41 billion.  Either the Center for American Progress is really frugal, or else it has ulterior motives in judging the expenditure of these funds as “unrealistic”. 

Since a Center for American Progress report on Medicaid funding, issued concurrently with the study of deportation costs, was entitled Medicaid: Give it another 40, I have to assume they are not especially frugal.  Were it to never receive even a single increase over the next 40 years, Medicaid alone will cost the Federal Government $10,000 billion during that time span ($250 billion per year).  And the message of the report was summed up in one sentence: We should demand that our policymakers expand Medicaid, not cut it, as part of a larger plan to provide universal health care to all people in this nation.”   So, clearly, the people at the Center for American Largesse are not entirely opposed to our Government spending money.

But now consider that the methods the Center for American Progress used to calculate the $41 billion figure are a little odd.  For example, they estimate that it will cost a whopping $17,603 per apprehension to find one illegal alien.  This may seem a little high to anyone who has ever been to Home Depot. 

So how was this highly scientific estimate arrived at?  By assuming that the current rate of workplace enforcement represents a best effort by the Federal Government.  In 2003, they note, a grand total of 445 illegal aliens were arrested at worksites in America.  No, you read right, 445 total.  This figure is a clear indictment of the current corrupt system, in which the field agents are under orders to enforce the law as little as possible.  But the Center for American Progress takes it as an accurate predictor of the efficiency of an earnest future effort. 

The cost was then determined as: 445 worksite arrests, divided among the 90 agents involved in these arrests (yes, it apparently took 90 agents one year to find 445 illegal aliens), multiplied by an annual cost of $175,714 per agent.  When inexplicably averaged with the figures from the year 1999 (240 agents arresting 2849 illegal aliens at worksites) the accuracy-minded fellows at the Center for American Progress came up with their figure of $17,603 per arrest.  Perhaps the Washington Post missed the math part of the report? 

Also, I can find about 445 illegal aliens standing on one street corner in Somerville, Massachusetts each morning.  Perhaps the government can just ask me where to find illegals for less than $17,603 per pop?  And these guys are really easy to capture.  All you have to do is pull up in a pick-up truck, yell: “FIVE DOLLARS PER HOUR!” and they hop right in back.  Really, it’s not that hard.

But again, let’s play the game and pretend the exaggerated $41 billion figure is true.  Contrast that with how much deporting 10 million illegal aliens would save us in government services.  According to the Center for Immigration Studies, illegal aliens cost the Federal Government a net $10 billion per year in services (including $2.5 billion stolen from Medicaid alone).  After including this savings, we are now down to $31 billion cost per year to deport.  At the state level, the Federation for American Immigration Reform reports that California alone spent a net $9 billion in a single year in services stolen by illegal aliens.  Subtract this, and we are now down to a piddly $22 billion in cost per year to deport.  70% of illegal aliens live outside California, however, so assuming other states are defrauded at the same rate, this means they are losing, in total, $21 billion per year in services to illegal aliens.  Subtracting this, we are now down to just $1 billion per year to deport.

Now consider that every illegal worker earns money, owns property and has savings.  This is evidenced by the fact that Illegal immigrants remit over $1 billion dollars per month to their home countries via wire transfers from America. Since this is all contraband earned by illegal means, it should be subject to confiscation. 

Assuming that every illegal worker has a modest car, personal property and savings of merely $5,000 total (a very conservative assumption given the wire transfer figure), this means that the 10 million criminal aliens in this country have $50 billion worth of assets subject to seizure.  If taken over the five year period covered by the report from the fine folks at the Center for American Progress, this would mean that deporting illegal aliens would earn the United States a profit of $9 billion per year.  And that’s enough to fund Medicare for almost two whole weeks—for those worried about Medicare funding.

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Mr. Johnson, a writer and medical researcher in Cambridge, Mass., is a regular contributor to HUMAN EVENTS. His column generally appears on Tuesdays. Archives and additional material can be found at www.macjohnson.com.

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