Trump’s new deportation rules could cost the economy trillions

Bryce Covert

Bryce Covert Economic Policy Editor, Think Progress

President Trump pushed forward on his campaign promise to deport all undocumented immigrants on Tuesday by releasing new guidelines to expand and speed up deportations. The memos from the Department of Homeland Security target all undocumented immigrants for deportation, even those who haven’t committed serious crimes, while necessitating the hiring of thousands of new agents and building new detention facilities.

These policies are going to wreck havoc on the lives, families, and communities of those who end up deported. And they will also come with a steep cost for everyone in this country.

It’s still not clear whether the administration will actually have the resources and ability to deport every undocumented immigrant. But even if it were able to deport just the 7 million undocumented workers in this country, out of the estimated 12 million total, it would reduce GDP by 2.6 percent over a decade, according to research from Ryan Edwards and Francesc Ortega at the Center for American Progress (CAP), taking a $4.7 trillion bite out of the economy. (ThinkProgress is an editorially independent project of CAP.) That’s comparable to the job losses experienced during the recent recession.

That lines up with other recent findings from Edwards and Ortega, which calculated that undocumented workers contribute 3 percent of GDP, or nearly $5 trillion in economic growth over ten years. Those contributions would disappear if all of those workers were deported.

The effects could be even more swift. The American Action Forum recently found that deporting all undocumented immigrants could shrink the economy by 2 percent in one year. The organization also found that things get worse the longer the time horizon: over 20 years, GDP would drop by 6 percent.

The pain also wouldn’t be contained in specific sectors or corners of the country. While some states with large immigrant populations, such as California and Texas, would experience enormous economic losses, every state would lose.

And it wouldn’t just be agriculture that would find itself without workers it depends on. “Just about every single industry would be affected in a large way,” said Philip Wolgin, managing director of immigration at CAP. “Without a doubt it would impact the entire country.” Retail, hospitality, financial services, and even manufacturing, the sector Trump is most focused on helping, would be among those harmed.

Even if the White House only ended up deporting half of all undocumented workers, the effect would still be huge. “It’s still trillions of dollars of losses,” Wolgin pointed out.

None of this factors in the huge cost of actually carrying through on Trump’s plans to deport immigrants and build a wall along the border. The memos released on Tuesday include a pledge to hire 15,000 more border patrol agents and construct new detention centers, as well as to begin building the wall. These will come with their own price tags.

Currently, only a fraction of the people apprehended are detained based on the severity of what they’re being apprehended for and whether they are flight risks. Under Trump’s orders, however, everyone will be detained. The mandatory detention of all undocumented immigrants would cost $902 million a year, or $9 billion over a decade.

On top of that, hiring new ICE officers is a significant cost that will require Congress to get involved. For years, Congress has only doled out enough funding to deport about 400,000 people a year, so the Trump administration will need a good deal more funding to follow through on its new policies.

“It’s going to cost a lot more money,” Wolgin said. “Can they actually come up with the funds to make it happen? That’s going to be a question of what Congress wants to do.”

Overall, apprehending, detaining, processing, and transporting every undocumented immigrant outside of the U.S. would cost between $400 and $600 billion.

The country has already had some natural experiments with what happens to the economy when immigrants are kept out. After Arizona passed a series of laws, the state’s undocumented population dropped by 40 percent between 2007 and 2012, which reduced its economy by 2 percent a year and depressed employment by 2.5 percent. Alabama passed a similar law in 2011, which caused a dramatic slowdown amid a worker shortage that reduced its economy by an estimated $11 billion.

There’s also little evidence that mass deportations will do anything to help native-born workers. In Arizona, for example, less than 10 percent of the jobs vacated by undocumented immigrants were filled by legal immigrants or low-skilled native-born workers. Instead, employment declined for low-skilled, white, native-born Arizonans between 2008 and 2009, the years with the biggest outflows of immigrants. The American Action Forum estimates that millions of jobs would be left empty if all undocumented workers were deported because there aren’t enough authorized employees to fill them.

The country even tried a widespread crackdown on Mexican immigrant workers in the 1960s as an explicit attempt to increase employment and wages for American-born workers. But recent research on the effects of ending the bracero program found that there was barely any impact on native workers’ employment or wages.


Reposted from ThinkProgress.

Bryce Covert is the Economic Policy Editor for ThinkProgress. She was previously editor of the Roosevelt Institute’s Next New Deal blog and a senior communications officer. She is also a contributor for The Nation and was previously a contributor for ForbesWoman. Her writing has appeared on The New York Times, The New York Daily News, The Nation, The Atlantic, The American Prospect, and others. She is also a board member of WAM!NYC, the New York Chapter of Women, Action & the Media. Follow her on Twitter @brycecovert

Posted In: Allied Approaches

Union Matters

Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: National Association of Letter Carriers

From the AFL-CIO

Next up in our series that takes a deeper look at each of our affiliates is the National Association of Letter Carriers.

Name of Union: National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC)

Mission: To unite fraternally all city letter carriers employed by the U.S. Postal Service for their mutual benefit; to obtain and secure rights as employees of the USPS and to strive at all times to promote the safety and the welfare of every member; to strive for the constant improvement of the Postal Service; and for other purposes. NALC is a single-craft union and is the sole collective-bargaining agent for city letter carriers.

Current Leadership of Union: Fredric V. Rolando serves as president of NALC, after being sworn in as the union's 18th president in 2009. Rolando began his career as a letter carrier in 1978 in South Miami before moving to Sarasota in 1984. He was elected president of Branch 2148 in 1988 and served in that role until 1999. In the ensuing years, he worked in various roles for NALC before winning his election as a national officer in 2002, when he was elected director of city delivery. In 2006, he won election as executive vice president. Rolando was re-elected as NALC president in 2010, 2014 and 2018.

Brian Renfroe serves as executive vice president, Lew Drass as vice president, Nicole Rhine as secretary-treasurer, Paul Barner as assistant secretary-treasurer, Christopher Jackson as director of city delivery, Manuel L. Peralta Jr. as director of safety and health, Dan Toth as director of retired members, Stephanie Stewart as director of the Health Benefit Plan and James W. “Jim” Yates as director of life insurance.

Number of Members: 291,000 active and retired letter carriers.

Members Work As: City letter carriers.

Industries Represented: The United States Postal Service.

History: In 1794, the first letter carriers were appointed by Congress as the implementation of the new U.S. Constitution was being put into effect. By the time of the Civil War, free delivery of city mail was established and letter carriers successfully concluded a campaign for the eight-hour workday in 1888. The next year, letter carriers came together in Milwaukee and the National Association of Letter Carriers was formed.

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