Here's What Mass Deportation Would Mean

Statement from FWD.us President Todd Schulte:

The anti-immigrant voices yelling for mass deportation have no serious interest in fixing our country’s broken immigration system – although it is interesting they are finally admitting what the hard-line anti-immigrant restrictionists have taken pains to avoid for decades: they want to forcibly expel millions of immigrants, period.

This isn’t partisan; this is about American values: Republicans, Democrats, and independents have long understood that immigrants grow our economy and have built this nation. We hope, that despite a few loud voices, leaders from both parties will speak out on what they know is true; to remain competitive in a global economy we need to allow talented people of all backgrounds to contribute. What’s absurd is not just these “plans,” but that those who would seek to represent Americans as president are falling all over themselves to support backward policies that would rip apart American families and collapse our economy.

Let’s start with forced mass deportation: the idea that the United States would best be served by creating a police state to round up approximately 11.5 million undocumented immigrants and deport each and every one of them. Beyond this morally reprehensible idea of breaking apart millions of families – removing a population equivalent to 12 states and the District of Columbia – this number doesn’t include the harm to the roughly 4 million U.S. citizen children with an undocumented parent. Additionally, the discussion around revoking birthright citizenship means supporters of this idea want to rewrite our Constitution in order to expel millions of U.S. citizens to countries where they’ve never lived.

Adding to the terrible moral cost of splitting apart families and deporting U.S. citizens, the cost to our economy would be astronomical: The conservative American Action Forum recently released a study showing that deporting 11.5 million people would cost U.S. taxpayers $400 to $600 billion dollars, and would take at least 20 years to complete. Even worse, this mass deportation would reduce our GDP by $1.7 trillion – over 5%. Many industries would be hit hard, others – like agriculture, construction and hospitality – would be devastated. Try imagining  California or Florida without agriculture. The approximately $100 billion in payroll taxes that undocumented immigrants pay into Medicare and the Social Security Trust Fund would dry up.

Developing the massive law enforcement, surveillance systems, and prison camps necessary to round up a population the size of Ohio is anathema to American values. Of course, these reasons are exactly why immigration reform supporters as diverse as the Catholic Church, the Southern Baptist Convention, tech entrepreneurs, the Farm Bureau, business and organized labor leaders, Jewish community groups, manufacturers, law enforcement officers, and veterans organizations agree that this approach is hurtful and wrong. As for the American people, 9 in 10 Americans from all walks of life agree that rounding up and deporting those who came here as kids is wrong.

Americans understandably pride ourselves on being a nation of immigrants, with a culture that welcomes and accepts new and aspiring Americans. This has always been and continues to be one of our greatest competitive advantages. Of course, American politics has also long been filled with anti-immigrant voices, who rant that immigrants are taking jobs away from “real” Americans. But it’s as false today as it was when Irish were told they need not apply, or Jews or Catholics were told they weren’t welcome here. Study and after study makes it clear that not only do immigrants create jobs for native-born Americans and grow the economy, but they overwhelmingly do not compete with native-born Americans for existing jobs. But don’t ask us or even those economists who most strongly support immigration reform: even critical economists, like George Borjas, admit that immigrants don’t undercut native-born American wages. In an April 2013 study, Borjas concluded that the current level of immigrant workers in the United States raises U.S. GDP by about $1.6 trillion relative to where it would be with zero immigration. Put simply, increased immigration pushes up wages for native-born Americans.

The idea we should radically restrict pathways for highly-skilled immigrants to come and stay here is – again – just wrong. We need to fix our nation’s badly broken immigration system so that more highly-skilled immigrants can create jobs here in the United States – and that we can continue to be a magnet for the best and the brightest from all over the world; our global competitors aren’t waiting while we waste time. That means creating a Startup Visa to help entrepreneurs create the next generation of innovation here in the U.S.; it means clearing the green card backlog to allow those who qualify and want to stay here to build their lives and grow our economy, and it means increasing the numbers of H-1B visas and reforming the program so that we don’t run out of spots in the current yearly allotment for this critical program within only a few days every year. Additionally, these programs need to be modernized to ensure they are working appropriately – something that hasn’t happened because Congress has not taken action in decades.
The evidence is clear that high-skilled immigrants create American jobs. All of this framework has broad bipartisan support. And we know that highly-skilled immigrants don’t displace native-born American highly-skilled workers. It’s a false choice to say we can’t grow the economy and protect Americans jobs. In fact, they improve overall wages of U.S.-born highly-skilled workers. Some good stats:

• Every foreign student who graduates from a U.S. university with an advanced degree and stays and works in a STEM-related field creates an additional 2.62 American jobs.
• Fields with high percentages of H1-Bs not only have unemployment rates substantially lower than the national average, but those geographic areas with more H1-Bs have lower rates of unemployment and higher economic growth.
• 40% of Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or the children of immigrants
• For every 100 H-1B workers, an additional 183 jobs among U.S. native-born workers are created.
• Immigrants are nearly twice as likely to start their own business as native-born Americans.

So while there are many points of reasonable disagreement, the basic choices are pretty simple: maintain a broken status quo, fix the system and let people come forward and legally fully contribute to society, or round up millions of people, split apart American families, and collapse the economy. These choices aren’t about partisan politics – this is common sense – although anyone advocating mass deportation and severely restricting legal immigration knows nothing about today’s electoral map.

We will continue to work for an immigration system that works better for American families and our economy – one that allows hardworking undocumented immigrants to contribute fully to our communities, rather than face mass deportation supported by a small handful of anti-immigrant voices.

For more information that breaks down the anti-immigrant narrative and illustrates the importance of immigrants to the U.S. economy please see this fact sheet from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce: DEBUNKING THE MYTH THAT IMMIGRATION HARMS AMERICA.

Posted by Todd Schulte on 08/19/2015