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The $285 Billion Nonsolution: The Cost of Deportation

New CAP report details the severe consequences of a deportation-only immigration policy on the nation's economy and the drain on the federal treasury.

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Contact: Madeline Meth
Phone: 202.741.6277
Email: mmeth@americanprogress.org

It has been almost three years since Congress tried to reform the nation’s broken immigration system. Since then, Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama have each greatly increased spending to deploy new enforcement strategies, but enforcement alone has not worked. The inherent dysfunction of our immigration system has deepened and the public call for solutions has amplified.

Instead of heeding the public’s demand that the immigration system be repaired, immigration restrictionists call for deportation of the nearly 11 million undocumented immigrants, or “deportation through attrition,” which means making life so miserable for the undocumented and their families, that, in theory, they would simply get up and leave.

Seeking to turn the irresponsible deportation rhetoric into real dollars, a new report by the Center for American Progress, “Calculating the Costs of Mass Deportation of Undocumented Immigrants,” details what it would cost to find and apprehend, detain, legally process, and transport the almost 11 million undocumented people and maintain current enforcement levels at the border and interior for five years.

The price tag is staggering: $285 billion.

The deportation alone would cost $200 billion, on top of the $85 billion that would be required to maintain the current enforcement strategy for five years.

This new CAP report details the severe consequences of a deportation-only policy on the nation’s economy and the drain on the federal treasury. Using publicly available data, the study analyzes the costs and steps that would be required to carry out such a program—from point of arrest through transportation out of the country. Our report adopts conservative assumptions for key variables to ensure that the estimated program and spending requirements are realistic and not overstated. The findings are not just sobering; they prove that a deportation-only immigration strategy would be the height of folly.

How much is $285 billion?

· $922 in new taxes for every man, woman, and child in this country.

· It would pay 6.7 million Americans’ salaries for a year.

· Enough to hire 1 million new high school teachers and pay their salaries for five years.

Read more about what we could do with $285 billion, here.

Watch a short video that breaks down the numbers, here.

In other words, it is a waste of taxpayer dollars.

On the other side of the equation, we know that legalization of undocumented immigrants would add a cumulative $1.5 trillion in GDP over 10 years—through increased consumer spending, higher tax receipts, and other related factors. A deportation approach, by contrast, would have the cumulative effect of draining $2.5 trillion over 10 years from the U.S. economy. That is a $4 trillion swing in GDP depending on which policy approach we adopt.

This report shows how deportation is not a solution. The answer lies in a tough, fair and practical comprehensive immigration reform that serves our national economic and security interests and values.

The following CAP immigration experts will be available today and through the weekend to provide comment and analysis.

Please contact Suzi Emmerling at semmerling@americanprogress.org or 202 344-0404 to speak with them. Para entrevistas en español, favor de comunicarse con Raúl Arce-Contreras al rarcecontreras@americanprogress.org o 202.478.5318.

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To speak with our experts on this topic, please contact:

Print: Katie Peters (economy, education, poverty, Half in Ten Education Fund)
202.741.6285 or kpeters@americanprogress.org

Print: Anne Shoup (foreign policy and national security, energy, LGBT issues, health care, gun-violence prevention)
202.481.7146 or ashoup@americanprogress.org

Print: Crystal Patterson (immigration)
202.478.6350 or cpatterson@americanprogress.org

Print: Madeline Meth (women's issues, Legal Progress, higher education)
202.741.6277 or mmeth@americanprogress.org

Spanish-language and ethnic media: Tanya Arditi
202.741.6258 or tarditi@americanprogress.org

TV: Lindsay Hamilton
202.483.2675 or lhamilton@americanprogress.org

Radio: Chelsea Kiene
202.478.5328 or ckiene@americanprogress.org