Critics Miss How Well Trump's Deportation Plan Actually Could Work

Donald Trump has laid out the bare bones of a deportation plan that has an excellent chance of working well. The caricatures presented by his critics overlook the clever incentives he apparently is building into it. The reaction has been as negative as the reaction to his initial contention, when he announced his candidacy, that rapists and criminals are streaming across the border. That was twisted into a false claim that he was thus characterizing all people coming across the border, earning him accusations of racism and worse. Yet the string of disgusting crimes at the hands of illegals, who would have been deported but for sanctuary city policies, has made his point, and the surge in his popularity has shown that demonization by media and political elites has backfired.

Something quite similar may well happen with his deportation proposal.

Estimates have already been published that the cost of his proposal would be from 100 billion to close to a trillion dollars, and claims made that a police state would result.  These contentions rest on the assumption that what Trump has in mind is a mass roundup of the 11 to 14 million illegal immigrants in the country. But listen closely to what he said in his interview with Bill O’Reilly August 18th (between roughly 2:50 and 3:20 on this video):


“When people are illegally in the country, they have to go.  Now the good ones – and there are plenty of good ones – we’ll work it so that it’s expedited where they come back in, but they come back in legally. Bill, we have a country. You need borders and you need law.”

I am not in touch with Mr. Trump, nor can I read his mind, but it does not take much extrapolation to foresee what he has in mind.  Trump is offering what might be called a form of bare bones amnesty for the “good ones.”  They would pass an “expedited” process – perhaps a check for criminal records -- and be offered a permit to re-enter the United States as legal residents, perhaps for a designated period of time, probably with the option to renew for those who have a clean record.

Announcing that illegal immigrants with clean records have the opportunity to earn a green card-lite  -- essentially an updated and improved version of the Bracero Program -- would evoke a massive response. No effort at all would be necessary to search for people, arrest them, and conduct hearings. They would be eager to come forward and fill out the paperwork for the expedited formalities. They could at last “come out of the shadows” and be able to bargain for wages on the same basis as the rest of the workforce. Once the first wave of illegals successfully re-entered the United States legally, nearly everyone eligible for the program would want to participate.

What of those not eligible? By definition, they are already on the radar of law enforcement agencies. And their communities, no longer fearful of immigration authorities and incentivized to avoid entanglements with law enforcement by aiding and abetting violations of immigration law, no longer would shelter them. In fact, they would have every reason to actively cooperate in their apprehension so as to maintain the legal status.

The status granted would not be a “path to citizenship.” In fact, citizenship for people taking advantage of this program would require them to start over and follow the same procedures that others who have applied legally have followed. They would, in other words, have to go to the back of the line.  That would be the price for jumping the line and violating our borders.

In other words, for the price of a bus ticket to Tijuana, Laredo, or Matamoros, Mexicans living in the United States illegally but peacefully and responsibly would be offered a chance to come out of the shadows and get what has been demanded by much of the left. Citizens of more distant countries would require somewhat more expensive travel arrangements, but charter flights for the masses of people needing to touch down in El Salvador, Guatemala, or even China, before flying right back would not be prohibitively expensive.

The program might even include a requirement to not take advantage of various government programs available to citizens and legal immigrants.  After all, the cost to federal, state, and local governments of the average illegal immigrant family is reckoned by the Heritage Foundation at more than $14,000 per family – “$24,721 in government benefits and services while paying some $10,334 in taxes.” Agreeing, for instance, not to participate in food stamps, would not be an unreasonable requirement in return for legalized residency.

Would this be acceptable to those Americans who have all along been quietly outraged by mass violation of our borders? If coupled with Trump’s promise to rapidly build a wall, it answers the gut level objections that many people, including me, have about rewarding the violation of our sovereignty. And if the program clearly offered the possibility for people working in the United States under its terms to return home and legally re-enter the United States, I suspect we would see a lot of families opt to raise their children in their home country environments, with the working parent residing in the USA and coming home periodically.

For one thing, it is much cheaper to raise a family in the poor countries than in the USA. The main reason why families follow the breadwinners across the border is that re-entry into the U.S. is so difficult and dangerous if the breadwinner goes home to visit them. And the hard truth is that for many it would be seen as be safer and more pleasant to raise a family at home in, for example, Mexico’s Jalisco State than in a violent gang-ridden Los Angeles or Chicago slum.  The families would have a higher standard of living, and the cost to American taxpayers of educating children and supplying medical services to family members would be reduced.

The topic of the Fourteenth Amendment birth citizenship was addressed ably yesterday on these pages, by blogger Newsmachete.  But I must note that Bill O’Reilly in the video embedded above mischaracterized the Constitution’s provision.  O’Reilly states at around 2:00 on the video that the 14th says that “if you’re born here, you’re an American.” What it actually says is:

“All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”

What do the words “and subject to the jurisdiction thereof” mean? Ultimately the Supreme Court will have to decide that, if an attempt is made to deny citizenship to babies born to parents in the United States illegally. But the words might well be construed to exclude them.

It is not quite as black or white as Bill O’Reilly and many others assume, and pressing the case would not require amending the Constitution.