In the United States, it is estimated that there are anywhere between 10 to 12 million illegal immigrants. Most are hardworking people, they care about their community, and they care deeply about their family. In many instances, these are people who have fallen in love with the United States.
However, we must be clear and fair that these are still people who entered the United States illegally. They knew when they entered that they were flouting the law of a sovereign nation. They knew the risk, but they were willing to take it because they were fleeing a hard life, or they simply wanted something better, even if it meant doing something illegal.
Currently, these people are one of the hot topics of national debate. A debate that in many cases creates division, anger, and hatred between opposing points of view. We must resist every urge we have to resort to this emotion, as it will not solve the issue.
Let’s work now to find some solutions.
On one side of the argument, you will hear a call to deport all illegal immigrants from the nation. You will hear, rightly, that the law was broken and that there should be consequences to breaking the law. However, we should break that down a bit.
According to ICE, it cost an average of $10,834 to deport a single illegal immigrant in 2016. If you use simple math that means we would be spending $119,394,000,000 to deport 11 million people. That is simply the cost to remove them from the country. Add in the cost of building a wall to the southern border to prevent re-entry, with a cost of between $25-70 billion. The total expenditure to deport all illegal immigrants from the United States would be approximately $144 billion. This mass deportation would need to take place over the course of 10 – 20 years. There is an argument that claims that illegal immigrants do not pay taxes, and while they may not pay all the taxes of a full citizen (studies are inconclusive), it is known that illegal immigrants do pay taxes totaling over $11 billion dollars a year. That increases the impact of mass deportation to $155 billion. (In transparency this does not include those who receive assistance from federal programs, which is extremely difficult to track.)
That is not the only expense to the nation. Of the 11 million illegal immigrants, 8 million are active workers in the American economy. That means that they are integrated into our Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The estimated impact of removing this population from the American workforce would be up to $5 trillion dollars to our overall economy over a decade. The largest impact would be felt in hospitality, agriculture, and construction industries.
There needs to be a balanced approach to solving illegal immigration because we just can’t afford the total cost of removing a large population of workers from the economy, currently we are already in debt over $21 trillion.
- Violent criminals would be subject to deportation. If you broke the law to enter the country and you have continued to disregard the laws of the nation you will not be welcome in the country. There would need to be a negotiated agreement about what crimes would call for immediate deportation.
- Construction of barriers in high crossing areas of the border to secure the nation from future illegal immigration. A wall constructed from shore to shore would not be necessary.
- Enhance drone and unmanned surveillance of the southern border.
- Immediately enforce all immigration laws moving forward to prevent future concern about the same issue. We need to ensure that the solution does not need to be revisited in the future. Enforcement of work and study visa will need electronic monitoring and removal of worker or student upon expiration. It would be the responsibility of the worker or student to renew and pay costs to maintain their visa.
- Pathway to the legalization of current illegal immigrants, with a waiting period of two years before eligibility to receive benefits from federal aid programs. No pathway to citizenship for the first generation illegal immigrant, unless they go back to the country of origin and start the citizenship process, pay any and all debt owed, and pay the cost of a visa for time spent in the country as an illegal immigrant.
- The second generation illegal immigrants, will have a path to citizenship that includes renewable visa until the process for citizenship in completed.
We cannot cheapen the process that legal immigrants take and have taken to become citizens of the United States, and if citizenship is granted to those who came illegally, lived here illegally it would be the wrong message to those who did it the right way and paid for their citizenship.
These steps will moderate the debate. This will allow the nation to move on from a hot topic.
Currently, there are no sensible solutions on the table because our politicians use this issue as a wedge issue. They drive the people of the nation into factions, into tribes, that take opposing points of view. From that, the major parties secure their power and their donations.
If they solve the hot issue, they lose the ability to control people, power, and money.