By Bryce Covert
May 5, 2016
On his first day as the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump went on NBC and reiterated his plan to deport all 11 million undocumented immigrants living in this country if he becomes president.
“They’re going to be deported,” he told host Lester Holt on Wednesday. “We have many illegals in the country, and we have to get them out.” The ones who have “done well and really achieved,” he added, would then be allowed back in.
He followed that up in an interview on Thursday morning with CNBC in which he defended his stance and argued it won’t hurt the economy. “We certainly don’t want to shrink our economy,” he said. “I’m not a shrinker of economies, I’m a grower of economies.”
But a new report from a conservative think tank makes just the opposite claim, warning what the cost to the economy would be if Trump were to follow through. The American Action Forum finds that rounding up and deporting all undocumented immigrants could shrink the economy by 2 percent in one year, according to research it will release Thursday.
This year, the economy is projected to produce $18.7 trillion in goods and services. But 6.8 million undocumented immigrants are employed, and removing them from the country all at once would reduce that output by somewhere between $381.5 to $623.2 billion. It could also leave millions of jobs empty, as there wouldn’t be enough legal employees to fill all the vacancies, particularly in industries that disproportionately employ undocumented workers, like construction, farming, and hospitality.
The impact would continue to compound over the years. The think tank previously found that mass deportation would reduce the economy by 6 percent, or $1.6 trillion dollars, over 20 years. And the impact could be even larger than that, as those estimates don’t take into account the drop in consumption that would inevitably come if so many people were to be forced out at once.
“The things Donald Trump has said are utterly unworkable,” Douglas Holtz-Eakin, president of the American Action Forum and top economic adviser to John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign, told Reuters.
The report also doesn’t take into account the sheer cost of finding and deporting all 11 million undocumented immigrants. But it previously found that it would cost between $400 and $600 billion to apprehend, detain, process, and transport all undocumented immigrants back to their countries of origin, numbers that are similar to estimates from progressive think tanks that it would cost an average of about $10,000 to deport each undocumented immigrant.
There have been some case studies in states that enacted strict immigration policies designed to make life difficult for undocumented people and drive them out. After Arizona enacted SB 1070, or the “show me your papers” law, the state’s tourism industry lost $250 million and 3,000 jobs in one year. When Alabama passed its own law in 2011, work at many factories and farms slowed dramatically amid a shortage of workers and the annual economic damage was estimated at about $11 billion. A law in Georgia is estimated to cost between $300 million and $1 billion in lost agricultural output alone.
The cost of deportations would come on top of Trump’s other expensive promises. His tax plan is estimated to reduce government revenues by $9.5 trillion over a decade. Depending on how he decided to go after China for its trade policies, he could end up costing the United States as many as 7 million jobs.
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