President-elect Donald Trump has a plan to solve the problem of illegal immigration: Mass Deportations. In a campaign speech on August 31st, 2016, in Phoenix, Arizona, he outlined this plan. Full text here.
Trump emphasized the deportation of dangerous criminals, by means of an ICE task force.
“Within ICE I am going to create a new special deportation task force focused on identifying and quickly removing the most dangerous criminal illegal immigrants in America who have evaded justice….”
But would America be safer if dangerous criminals, who are also unauthorized immigrants, were deported? Trump’s own speech suggests we would be less safe. For if they are deported, rather than being tried, convicted, and incarcerated in the U.S., they could return across the border to commit further crimes. Trump even gives an example, illustrating this problem.
“Another reform I’m proposing is the passage of legislation named for Detective Michael Davis and Deputy Sheriff Danny Oliver, to law enforcement officers recently killed by a previously deported illegal immigrant. The Davis-Oliver bill will enhance cooperation with state and local authorities to ensure that criminal immigrants and terrorists are swiftly, really swiftly, identified and removed. And they will go fast, believe me. They’re going to go.”
The two named officers were killed by someone who had previously been deported, and yet who returned and committed murder. The sad irony of naming a bill after those two officers, a bill that would perpetuate the same problem that resulted in their deaths, seems to be lost on Donald Trump.
In addition, the home nations of these dangerous criminals do not want to take them back, and do not have the resources to incarcerate them. In fact, how would they even try those criminals, for crimes committed in the U.S.? If we could pressure their home nations to accept their return, they would not be put on trial and then imprisoned, and could return to the U.S. to commit further crimes.
But Trump’s deportation plan does not stop there. At Phoenix, he reiterated his desire to deport all unauthorized immigrants, even those who are essentially law-abiding residents, who contribute constructively to communities across America.
“Anyone who has entered the United States illegally is subject to deportation. That is what it means to have laws and to have a country. Otherwise we don’t have a country.”
It is highly questionable whether such a mass deportation plan would succeed. There were approximately 765,000 full-time sworn officers in the U.S., as of 2008, the latest year for which data is available.
DOJ data: http://www.bjs.gov/index.cfm?ty=dcdetail&iid=249
The vast majority of those officers are State and local, not federal. Federal officers numbered about 120,000 in 2008, just under 16% of the total. These immigrants could not be arrested, processed, and transported to their home nations, since federal agents are already busy with other law enforcement tasks. Only a small percentage of federal agents could be redirected to focus solely on deportation. So the numbers just don’t work.
But let’s suppose, hypothetically, that a mass deportation plan does succeed. What would happen next? According to Pew Research
“There were 11.3 million unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. in 2014.” And that number has remained at about the same level for 5 years (2010 through 2014). About half of the unauthorized immigrants are from Mexico (49%) and the rest are mainly from Latin American nations.
If the U.S. had only eleven unauthorized immigrants, all 11 might be returned to their home nations without any harm. We could reasonably anticipate that they would find 11 places to live and 11 jobs in their own nation.
But the U.S. currently has over 11 million unauthorized immigrants. We cannot return them to their own nations, because we can reasonably anticipate that grave harm will occur to many of them, if we do. There are not 11 million homes and 11 million jobs waiting for those persons in their home nations. And even if such were the case, to uproot 11 million persons and move them a great distance would cause a severe disruption to a vast number of lives (not only to the lives of those uprooted). Even if mass deportations become legal, it would not be ethical. Much harm and little good would be done by deporting 11 million persons.
How much harm? If the U.S. were to attempt to deport the 11 million unauthorized immigrants, we could reasonably anticipate that many of those persons would die. The nations to which they would be deported generally do not have social safety net programs. And even if they did, a flood of 11 million persons would break those programs. Many would die.
They would return to their own nations without a place to live; most would be unable to obtain work. They would not have adequate food or shelter. They would easily fall ill; there would be little or no medical care for them. They would easily fall prey to crimes of violence. If only one percent of those 11 million die as a result of such a massive deportation, there would be 110,000 deaths. But the percentage could easily be much higher than one percent. Therefore, such a massive deportation would be equivalent to mass murder.
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