I would like to revisit the idea of deporting illegal immigrants, which was floating around Washington and other political circles recently. Let’s have this conversation as if the order was signed, sealed and delivered and the U.S. government was going to deport all illegal immigrants from this country. The Department of Homeland Security had the number of illegal immigrants in the United States at 10.5 million as of 2005.
The first and largest hurdle would be devising a scheme that would allow us to positively identify those who are illegal while not violating the rights of those who are legal. The policy also could not be excessively discriminatory.
How do we to locate 10.5 million individuals who may already be avoiding authorities and are without proper identification?
Will it be the policy of our government to engage in a form of racial profiling in order to capture illegals? Are we to enlist the support of those Americans on the frontlines of our service industries, specifically cashiers, pharmacists, doctors, nurses, teachers, clergy and charities? Or will this be a law enforcement effort?
If so, it begs the question of how we will compensate law enforcement agencies that are already overworked and underpaid, who already struggle to keep legal Americans in line. If you accept the claim that illegals are already victimized, then what happens when we put what amounts to a ransom on their heads? How do we justify this policy to ethnic groups in our country that have a history being profiled?
What kinds of resources would be involved in housing these individuals? What is clear is that we would not be able to use our current prison system to carry out this task. Our county jails and prisons are already overcrowded and their staffs overworked. There simply is no room, and resources are already spread thin.
Are we prepared to spend billions of dollars on regional housing facilities throughout the country?
Are we prepared to spend that same amount of money hiring, training and maintaining staff for these housing facilities?
Surely if we are going to house illegal immigrants they will have to enjoy at least the most basic rights. How do we determine what services will be offered at these housing facilities? Would it resemble our current prison system, with schools, recreation, health facilities and entertainment? How will we deal with those who are young, elderly, handicapped or mentally ill?
Let’s say we manage to get past the dilemma of housing. The next step would be transporting these individuals. What mode of transportation would we use to transport millions of individuals? Can this be done without compromising our existing system? Americans will still need to ride buses, trains and planes.
We must keep in mind that Americans wake up every day to congested railways, highways and airways.
How do you transport millions of people throughout the country without interfering with interstate commerce while keeping in mind both the safety of those communities they pass through and that of the individuals using the same mode of transportation?
Not everyone will agree with the decision to deport illegal immigrants. There will be illegal immigrants who resist and Americans who assist them in their resistance. If you accept that claim, then that means extra care will need to be given in securing the transport vehicles.
How do our elected representatives begin to approach countries like Mexico, El Salvador and Guatemala about repatriation of our illegal immigrants? Would the conversation involve persuasion via economic aid or coercion via the threat of sanctions? Do we bring in the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund as leverage for either method we choose?
It seems unlikely that developing countries that are heavily in debt and struggling to attract investment would sit by passively and accept any compromise that involved the repatriation of millions of their citizens, without the compromise being coupled with a huge economic package.
This clearly would be a political solution. But how would our elected officials sell it to the average American citizen?
How do you begin to suggest to an over-taxed people that we now need to pay the countries of our illegal immigrants to accept them back?
Deporting illegal immigrants is not an option. The official sanctioning of such a step would consume our country like nothing else in our history. The four points addressed here are simply a preview of the complexities of the decision to deport. We must work to find a better solution.