This article will focus on how governments, both the American and Mexican governments, benefit from a weak enforcement of American immigration laws.
In part I, Who Profits from Illegal Immigration into the US? Part I: Private Business, the article discussed how numerous businesses profit from the advent of low cost illegal immigration and its resulting labor into The United States. This article will focus on how governments, both the American and Mexican governments, benefit from a weak enforcement of American immigration laws.
In all fairness, the United States does prevent hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants from crossing its borders. The same can be said for the successful interdiction of millions of dollars of illicit narcotics. The question is: Can more be done?
One idea that is constantly discussed is: If the American government knows where illegal immigrants reside, why doesn’t the government remove them? This is not a new idea. In fact, mass deportations were tried twice in this country:
The first mass deportation started “soon after the market crashed in 1929 to 1939 The Mexican Repatriation began. Where close to one million Mexican were forced or pressured to leave the United States. Ironically 60% were U.S Citizens at the time. (8) 'The event, carried out by American authorities, took place without due process. (9) The Immigration and Naturalization Service targeted Mexicans because of ‘the proximity of the Mexican border, their physical distinctiveness, and easily identifiable barrios.’ (10)(11) While it is important to note that the repatriation applied to all groups, the greatest effect was on the Mexicans.” (1)
The irony was soon after America’s entrance into the Second World War a major manpower shortage resulted as millions of men were shipped to the warfront. To mitigate the manpower shortage the American government negotiated with the Mexican government to allow Mexican nationals to migrate temporally to offset the employment needs. Thus, ending The Mexican Repatriation -- Kicking out the Mexican because they were stealing American jobs -- and the beginning of The Bracero Program --Bring back the “kicked out” Mexicans because America needed them due to severe labor shortages caused by the war! (1)
The second time was in 1954 called Operation Wetback. During the Eisenhower administration, there was a public outcry that had a risen from a New York Times report that quoted over 1 million illegal immigrants crossing the border each year as a result of “farmer-exploiters” taking advantage of cheap labor and corruption in the federal government. The resulting controversy led the mass deportations. The primary states affected were those bordering Mexico where the federal government coordinated the border patrol with state and local police agencies to mount aggressive crackdowns. The police swept Mexican-American neighborhoods using racial “profiling on random stops and ID checks of 'Mexican-looking' people in a region.” The result was tens of thousands of Mexican nationals along with their American-born children deported. In addition, it was estimated over 1 million left for fear of being deported. (2)
Today those heavy handed deportations tactics would not go well with the American public and world opinion. With an estimated 10 million plus illegal immigrants residing in the United States the numbers have reached unmanageable levels. (3),(4) The cost of deporting all the illegal immigrants would run well into the billions of dollars and take years to complete. Furthermore it is estimated that 344,000 children are born each year to at least one parent that has illegal immigration status. These children are considered American citizens and as such cannot be deported. These “anchor babies” have the effect of requiring (anchoring) their parents to remain in the United States as their guardians. (3),(5)
There are many reasons why it is in the best interest for the United States government not to aggressively deport illegal immigrants in mass.
The Massive Cost to Deport:
While the actual cost is unknown, the estimates range from tens of billions of dollars up to hundreds of billions of dollars. These estimates vary so wildly as to be almost worthless. There are several good reasons for such a wide range. No one knows how “passively” the illegal immigrants will leave. If many illegal immigrants select deportation hearings, the cost can raise significantly. Another unknown cost factor is the cost of apprehension. Consider those individuals who are not easily apprehended. What would it cost the nation to have 5%, 10%, or 15% fugitives that are hiding from the law! Remember the scale is in the millions of fugitive, not a few hundreds or thousands. Lastly, if the goal is to accomplish the deportation in a “reasonable” period of time (say five years) then the number of successful deportation would need to be between 1 to 2 million people per year! The current infrastructure would need to be greatly enhanced to accommodate such massive deportations. Thousands of people would need to be hired and trained. New facilities would need to be constructed or converted to accommodate such a massive number of deportations and hearings. In the end, the final, true cost would far exceed the current estimates!
Dealing with the Political Backlash:
Think if you will, you are watching the evening news and you see another nightly segment in which the local police and homeland security are arresting suspected illegal immigrants from their homes after a successful raid. People are yelling at the police. A bottle or two is thrown at the arresting officers. The camera pans to an angry and potentially violent crowd cordoned off to protect the arresting police. A crying woman is being pulled apart from her loving American husband. Another woman has her child ripped from her arms by social services as she is forcibly loaded onto a homeland security deportation and detention bus. Then the commentator talks about how such raids are reminiscent of how the Nazis rounded up the Jews in the 1930’s as archival footage is shown on a split screen with today’s illegal immigration catch! Can you imagine what the national and international backlash such raids would have!
Add to this numerous lawsuits, public demonstrations, and Americans helping illegal immigrants defy the laws and you have the makings of a political disaster.
Crises with the Mexican Government:
While the cost can be absorbed into the never ending national deficit and finding political scapegoats is not new. The real problem is not the massive cost or political backlash that such mass deportations will cause. The real problem is the potential destabilization of Mexico. It is estimated that over 60% of all illegal immigrants in the United States are from Mexico. (3),(6) It is fair to say that Mexico would find itself with millions of their nationals being forced to return. The results would be fiscal and political disaster.
Today the second largest source of income for Mexico is remittance from illegal immigrants and Mexican-Americans living and working in the United States! (7) Removing the illegal immigrants working in the United States significantly reduces the remittance resulting in a tremendous reduction in national income. Add to this the fact that these same people who left because they could not find jobs to support their families are now being forcibly repatriated back to the same place where there were no jobs! The major difference is that as bad as the job market was before they left it would be significantly worse when they came back along with millions of other fellow deported job seekers! Think how much anger and frustration will millions of people who were accustomed to making an excellent wage by Mexican standards feel when they came back to Mexico! The result is a compounding effect: millions of people coming back to find no work and millions more that were being financially supported by the remittance they received. The total financial devastation would result in political destabilization as the government would be forced to handle tens of millions of financially devastated people. Such turmoil would most likely result in political turmoil as the public demanded greater job opportunities, less corruption, and effective government bureaucracy.
For the American government, a destabilized Mexican government is a price too high to pay! The possibility of political turmoil or civil unrest that could easily cross into the United States is NOT an acceptable option! It is for this reason that the American government refuses to aggressively enforce their borders and only deport a token number of people per year. For better or worse, Mexico needs the United States as safety valve to unload its excess population and the United States BENEFITS from a stable Mexico! The current status quo is in effect the lesser of two evils!
If you enjoyed this article, you will enjoy the other articles that are part of series discussing the problems with illegal immigration, the border fence, and the history of it all.
Who Profits from Illegal Immigration into the US? Part I: Private Business
How Illegal Immigration into the US Was Born
Interesting Facts About the Mexican American Border Fence
(1) How Illegal Immigration into the US was Born, by Eva Coombes, published by www.knoji.com on 9/25/2010. The following below are the article's references.
(8) Johnson, Kevin (Fall 2005). "The Forgotten “Repatriation” of Persons of Mexican Ancestry and Lessons for the “War on Terror”". Davis, California: Pace Law Review.
(9) Navarro, Sharon Ann and Mejia, Armando Xavier, Latino Americans and Political Participation Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-CLIO, 2004. ISBN 1-85109-523-3. page 277.
(10) Ruiz, Vicki L. (1998). From Out of the Shadows: Mexican Women in Twentieth-Century America. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-513099-5.
(2) Operation Wetback from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
(3) Illegal immigration to the United States from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
(4) 2^ NYtimes.com (it is marked as reference #2)
(5) 14^ "Immigration experts downplay birth tourism". Burlington, Vermont: Burlington Free Press. 4 August 2010. pp. 1A. http://www.heraldnet.com/article/20100903/NEWS02709039798#Birth tourism a tiny portion of immigrant babies.
(6) 4.^ a b "Estimates of the Size and Characteristics of the Undocumented Population - Full Report" (PDF). Pew Hispanic Center. 2005-03-21. http://pewhispanic.org/files/reports/61.pdf.
(7) Section Remittances to Mexico from (3) Illegal immigration to the United States from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Picture source: http://blogs.denverpost.com/captured/2010/09/06/in-focus-border-deaths/2419/