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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

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 or 202 344-0404 to speak with them. Para entrevistas en español, favor de comunicarse con Raúl Arce-Contreras al o 202.478.5318.


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

Print: Liz Bartolomeo (poverty, health care)
202.481.8151 or

Print: Tom Caiazza (foreign policy, energy and environment, LGBT issues, gun-violence prevention)
202.481.7141 or

Print: Allison Preiss (economy, education)
202.478.6331 or

Print: Tanya Arditi (immigration, Progress 2050, race issues, demographics, criminal justice, Legal Progress)
202.741.6258 or

Print: Chelsea Kiene (women's issues,, faith)
202.478.5328 or

Print: Beatriz Lopez (Center for American Progress Action Fund)
202.741.6255 or

Spanish-language and ethnic media: Rafael Medina
202.478.5313 or

TV: Rachel Rosen
202.483.2675 or

Radio: Sally Tucker
202.481.8103 or