Friday, September 14, 2007

Does it really cost $8,000 to send an illegal back to Mexico?

According to ICE, it does. I can fly to Playa del Carmen for an all-inclusive week-long stay at a fancy resort for less than a third of that, including travel expenses. This estimate is only for a one-way plane (or bus) ticket. It sounds expensive:
It would cost at least $94 billion to find, detain and remove all 12 million people believed to be staying illegally in the United States, the federal government estimated Wednesday.

That a deportation campaign would actually require finding, detaining, and extraditing the entire illegal population residing in the US to be successful is bunk. When Operation Wetback, which provides the best historical case study for a contemporary deportation effort, was executed in 1954, for each person removed by enforcement, between seven and eight left voluntarily.

A few sporadic, high-profile raids and talk about a partial barrier that still hasn't been built has been enough to cut attempted border crossings by a precipitous 30% this year, while affecting a similar rise in the number of deportations. Clearly, money spent on the back-end is being recouped to some degree at the front-end.

In the face of this mild increase in enforcement, most Mexicans believe the Bush administration is deadly serious about ending unfettered border crossings. This mentality has probably led many who considered hopping on over to channel their energies into something constructive at home.

The estimates were made thus (without potential legal hurtles factored in):
He said the amount was calculated by multiplying the estimated 12 million people by the average cost of detaining people for a day: $97. That was multiplied by the average length of detention: 32 days.

ICE officials also considered transportation costs, which average $1,000 per person.

But that amount can vary widely, the spokesman said. Some deportees are simply driven by bus across the border, while others must take charter planes to distant countries, he said.

Finally, the department looked at personnel costs, bringing the total to roughly $94 billion.
There is reason to assume, unrealistic as the premise that the only way to get illegal immigrants to leave is to detain and deport them is, that this estimate is inflated.

According to these numbers, personnel costs come to half of the total bill--$45 billion. That strains credulity. If the undertaking took two years, that would translate to 450,000 additional ICE agents working full-time for the entire duration with annual salaries of $50,000. By comparison, the entire Department of Homeland Security, of which ICE is a part, totals only 208,000 employees. On a total budget of only $7.8 billion, ICE will deport around 275,000 migrants this year.

My hope that Julia Myers would be a sovereignty paladin may have been overly optimistic. Then again, she may be proffering these numbers in an attempt to substantially boost ICE's budget, which, as far as government expenditures go, would be a worthy increase.

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