Politico: Trump’s deportation plan may be impossible

posted at 4:31 pm on December 30, 2016 by John Sexton

Politico has a story today suggesting that any effort by the incoming Trump administration to deport up to 2-3 million illegal immigrants could be “impossible.” Impossible in this case seems to mean expensive:

“It’s impossible, period,” said John Sandweg, who was acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in 2013 and 2014…

The first problem is the expense. At an average cost of $12,213 for each deportation, according to ICE, 2 million deportations would add up to more than $24.4 billion over four years. That includes all ICE costs necessary to identify, arrest, detain, process and remove those immigrants. It doesn’t include personnel salaries.

That’s more than the entire current budget for ICE and Customs and Border Protection (which deals with border security), which amounted to $19.4 billion in 2016.

The next problem is the backup in the immigration courts which is not staffed to handle another 2 million cases over the next few years. Adding new judges would be another layer of expense as well as time consuming. How soon those judges could begin hearing cases and clear a fresh backlog is anyone’s guess at this point.

Toward the end of the story, Politico does find one former ICE official who believes something like what Trump is proposing is possible, which undercuts the thrust of the story. The catch is that many of the people deported would not be gang members or felons, who are generally difficult to find, but people convicted of more minor crimes:

“There are going to be some very serious criminals,” said Julie Myers Wood, who ran ICE from 2006 to 2008, “and there are going to be some individuals who committed more minor crimes.”…

“It’s aggressive,” Myers Wood said. “And I’m not saying I recommend it. I’m just saying, ‘Could you do it?’ I think you could.”

The more important question in the long run may be how Trump’s plans impact arrivals at the border. The Obama administration generally refused to admit it but the announcement of DACA played a role in drawing people to the border, many of whom were misled about who was eligible for the new program. A tougher stance by Trump might be slow going but it could also send a message to would-be migrants that gradually reduces the number of people arriving at our border.


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