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Fantasy Deportation Games

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The Irish Potato Famine of the 1840s and ’50s spurred millions of Irish to immigrate to the United States. When they arrived, they were met with contempt by American nativists. State officials in New York and Massachusetts soon created laws to restrict immigration to the U.S. These laws were used as models for federal immigration policy
in the late 19th century Library of Congress

Trump continues to rave about deporting immigrants. Radley Balko runs the numbers.

Depending on which rally or interview you consult, Trump has put his deportation goal somewhere between 15 and 20 million people. The Pew Foundation estimates there are about 10 million undocumented people in the United States. The Department of Homeland Security puts the figure at about 11 million. The far-right Center for Immigration Studies puts the high end at around 14 million.

Imagine what it would take to evacuate the entirety of New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Pittsburgh. Imagine the number of buses and you’d need, the number of holding facilities, and everything you’d need to staff and equip those facilities. You’d need security. You’d need medical staff and food services. You’d need bathroom and shower facilities. You’d need janitorial staff, bus drivers, and pilots.

Now imagine moving a population equal in size to the populations of those cities, but spread out all over the United States. In addition to Miller’s tent encampments along the border, you’d also need detainment facilities in every major city to hold immigrants as they await transport. Sanctuary cities would resist letting the administration use space in their jails. But even in cooperating jurisdictions, there wouldn’t be nearly enough available space. In his Atlantic piece, Brownstein consulted with experts who made the dystopian suggestion of housing immigrants in warehouses and abandoned shopping malls.

Currently, removals are handled by the Enforcement and Removals Operations (ERO) division of ICE. At the moment, that office has 7,600 employees. Last year, ERO removed about 142,000 people with a budget of $4.7 billion. If we apply these numbers to Trump’s 15 million plan, and spread it out over a 4-year term, Trump would need the ERO or an equivalent agency to increase its capacity by a factor of about 26. So the office would need to increase to more than 200,000 employees, and a budget of $122 billion.

Balko goes through it all – detention camps, deportation courts, flying people to third countries – in terms of number of people involved and probable cost in dollars. There’s a LOT more in his piece. Check it out.

On the campaign trail, politicians talk mostly about policy. It’s important to work out the numbers, though. Presumably the politicians have people to do this and do not present policies that can’t reasonably be implemented. But Trump is playing to people’s prejudices and fears, so the promises need no backup in reality. People who will vote to remove immigrants don’t care about the implementation.

As Balko notes, carrying out this policy would result in a major depression as workers are removed. The worst effect, of course, would be the police state enacted to remove all these people. And then what would all the employees of that police state do when all “those” people were removed?

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