This Is How Much Donald Trump’s Immigration Plan Would Cost America if Mexico Doesn’t Pick Up the Tab.

If Trump needs illegal immigrants to go, it’s not going to be cheap.

National Journal
Lauren Fox
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Lauren Fox
Aug. 18, 2015, 1 a.m.

It’s not cheap to halt il­leg­al im­mig­ra­tion in Amer­ica. And even a busi­ness mogul like Don­ald Trump may have missed the bot­tom line.

Since Don­ald Trump de­clared his in­ten­tion to run for pres­id­ent, the 2016 con­tender has struck a nerve with the coun­try’s con­ser­vat­ives. And his mes­sage on im­mig­ra­tion has been para­mount to his al­lure.

Over the week­end, Trump took his rhet­or­ic to pa­per and out­lined his com­pre­hens­ive im­mig­ra­tion plan, which in­cluded erect­ing a bor­der wall, strength­en­ing in­tern­al en­force­ments like E-Veri­fy, trip­ling the num­ber of Im­mig­ra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment of­ficers, and re­quir­ing all im­mig­rants caught at the bor­der to be de­tained un­til they are re­moved from the coun­try, not re­leased and mon­itored.

And while Trump says his plan would boost the Amer­ic­an eco­nomy, es­tim­ates for sim­il­ar policies in­dic­ate it would come with a hefty price tag.

In his plan, Trump de­mands Mex­ico pay for his state-of-the-art bor­der wall, but Mex­ic­an Pres­id­ent En­rique Pena Ni­eto’s spokes­man told Bloomberg that the Mex­ic­an gov­ern­ment has no in­ten­tion of foot­ing the bill. That leaves the cost of build­ing up the bor­der to the U.S., and an im­pen­et­rable wall comes at a mult­i­bil­lion-dol­lar price.

The U.S. already has in place more than 650 miles of bor­der fen­cing. That pro­ject was es­tim­ated to have cost $2.4 bil­lion in 2009 and will con­tin­ue to cost bil­lions to main­tain. But Trump’s plan calls for a bet­ter bor­der fence. As­sum­ing the ex­ist­ing fence is scrapped and re­placed with one as se­cure as Is­rael’s se­cur­ity bar­ri­cade meant to de­ter ter­ror­ists, the cost of build­ing a fence along all 1,989 miles of the south­ern bor­der would come to more than $6 bil­lion. Na­tion­al Journ­al once es­tim­ated it would cost $6.4 bil­lion when all is said and done.

But the price tag of the bor­der wall is pit­tance com­pared to the mass de­port­a­tion Trump would like to see if he were pres­id­ent. While it was not lis­ted ex­pli­citly in his on­line im­mig­ra­tion plan, Trump told Meet the Press‘s Chuck Todd this past Sunday that im­mig­rants in the coun­try il­leg­ally would be sent back to their home coun­tries.

“We’re go­ing to keep the fam­il­ies to­geth­er, but they have to go,” Trump said. “We either have a coun­try or we don’t have a coun­try.”

The ex­plos­ive costs of mass de­port­a­tion have of­ten forced Re­pub­lic­an pres­id­en­tial and con­gres­sion­al can­did­ates to find an­oth­er solu­tion. Trump’s po­s­i­tion is far out­side the main­stream of many oth­er Re­pub­lic­ans. There are sev­er­al es­tim­ates out there on what it would cost to round up the roughly 11 mil­lion people who are resid­ing in the U.S. without per­mis­sion. The Cen­ter for Amer­ic­an Pro­gress, a lib­er­al think tank, es­tim­ated in 2010 (when the il­leg­al pop­u­la­tion was smal­ler) that it would take $200 bil­lion to “ar­rest, de­tain, leg­ally pro­cess and trans­port the un­doc­u­mented pop­u­la­tion over a five year peri­od.” That did not in­clude the $85 bil­lion it tal­lied for keep­ing up with en­force­ment in the sub­sequent five years.

In 2011, the Hou­s­ton Chron­icle re­por­ted that ICE Deputy Dir­ect­or Ku­mar Kibble told mem­bers of Con­gress that it cost $5 bil­lion to round up and de­port 393,000 im­mig­rants. That comes to a cost of ap­prox­im­ately $12,722 per im­mig­rant. If you had to de­port 11 mil­lion people at that cost, the feds would be dol­ing out about $140 bil­lion.

Trump ar­gues his plan would grow the eco­nomy and “end wel­fare ab­use.” Without mil­lions of im­mig­rants in the U.S., Amer­ic­an work­ers, he says, would have bet­ter ac­cess to jobs.

“We need to con­trol the ad­mis­sion of new low-earn­ing work­ers in or­der to: help wages grow, get teen­agers back to work, aid minor­it­ies’ rise in­to the middle class, help schools and com­munit­ies fall­ing be­hind, and to en­sure our im­mig­rant mem­bers of the na­tion­al fam­ily be­come part of the Amer­ic­an dream,” Trump said in his plan.

But step­ping up en­force­ment on the bor­der and in­tern­ally will add up.

Trump wants to re­quire that im­mig­rants be de­tained un­til they are de­por­ted. It is es­tim­ated that de­tain­ing one im­mig­rant costs $120 a day. Right now, some im­mig­rants are al­lowed to live out­side fa­cil­it­ies for months un­til they are de­por­ted. Re­quir­ing every single im­mig­rant to be de­tained would in­crease the cost of ap­pre­hen­sions and po­ten­tially re­quire build­ing more fa­cil­it­ies to hold im­mig­rants.

An­oth­er spendy piece of Trump’s pro­pos­al is im­ple­ment­ing in­tern­al en­force­ment meas­ures like E-Veri­fy, which helps em­ploy­ers val­id­ate a work­er’s im­mig­ra­tion status. Ac­cord­ing to a 2013 re­port by Alex Nowras­teh, an im­mig­ra­tion policy ana­lyst at the Cato In­sti­tute, E-Veri­fy would cost $2.3 bil­lion in the first 10 years.

When the Sen­ate’s so-called gang of eight re­leased its im­mig­ra­tion-re­form bill in 2013, the Con­gres­sion­al Budget Of­fice es­tim­ated the plan would cost $22 bil­lion to im­ple­ment. But, the plan — which en­forced the bor­der but also put some of the 11 mil­lion on a path to cit­izen­ship — re­duced the de­fi­cit by $197 bil­lion in the first 10 years.

It’s un­clear how much Trump’s plan would re­duce the de­fi­cit.

The biggest price tag of his plan, however, might not ac­tu­ally be pos­sible to cal­cu­late. Im­mig­ra­tion ex­perts say that even im­mig­rants liv­ing in the coun­try il­leg­ally still con­trib­ute to the eco­nomy. A New York Times story from 2013 sug­ges­ted that im­mig­rants in the coun­try il­leg­ally con­trib­uted $15 bil­lion an­nu­ally to So­cial Se­cur­ity. And the De­part­ment of Ag­ri­cul­ture has long ar­gued that de­port­ing mil­lions could have ma­jor ef­fects on the U.S.’s ag­ri­cul­tur­al eco­nomy, as it es­tim­ates that half of the coun­try’s farm work­ers over the last 15 years have been un­doc­u­mented.

“You can quanti­fy a lot of this. … The part that is harder to quanti­fy is the loss of these pro­duct­ive work­ers and en­er­get­ic and in­nov­at­ive en­tre­pren­eurs,” says Tamar Jac­oby, the pres­id­ent and CEO of Im­mig­ra­tion­Works USA, a pro-busi­ness im­mig­ra­tion group. “A pause in im­mig­ra­tion would put a huge dent in the Amer­ic­an eco­nomy that is vir­tu­ally im­possible to quanti­fy.”

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