Sunday, Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump unveiled his plan on immigration. The plan received kudos from the conservative media and much of the Republican base. Trump’s Republican opponents, however, have been silent. Today, holes in the plan are appearing. The push back has begun by pro-immigrant advocates.
Julia Preston wrote a “reality check” to the Trump plan in The NY Times today. “Some of his proposals are based on assertions that have been broadly debunked,” she wrote. “He portrayed undocumented Mexican immigrants as uneducated criminals who have been living off…American taxpayer dollars for their health care and education. But scholarly research has shown that undocumented immigrants are much more reluctant to use public health care than Americans. And billions of dollars of Social Security taxes they have paid for benefits they cannot collect have shored up the dwindling funds of that system,” she asserted.
She brought up a point missed by NBC’s Chuck Todd in his interview of Trump Sunday. Trump said he will end birthright citizenship for children of illegals born here. Trump cannot do that nor can Congress. Birthright citizenship is guaranteed in the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution. Ending it would require a constitutional amendment and such an amendment is unlikely at best. Amending the Constitution is difficult by design. The Equal Rights Amendment has yet to be ratified, for example.
Trump calls for deportation of every one of the 11.5 million undocumented immigrants in the country including their children born here. He would also deport those brought here as children by their parents. Trump said “Everyone must go, they can’t stay.” That proposal draws cheers from a large segment of the Republican base, but it is not practical or feasible. It would damage our economy and have the opposite effect Trump says.
Studies have been done on mass deportation. The cost of deporting 11 million immigrants ranges from $285 billion to $400 billion and it will take five to twenty years. Using the low number, this would cost every American at least $922 in new taxes. The burden would most likely fall on the middle class since corporations and billionaires have lobbyists insuring taxes are paid by others. That cost is in addition to the cost of building the wall if Mexico does not pay for it.
In a 2010 study, UCLA professor Raúl Hinojosa-Ojeda found that enacting a mass deportation policy would reduce economic output by 1.46 percent per year. He added: “This amounts to a cumulative $2.6 trillion in lost GDP over 10 years.” For example, the U.S. economy grew by an annual average of 1.9 percent in 2013. If Trump’s immigration policy was in place, that growth would be offset by a loss of 1.46 percent or a net GDP of less than a half of a percent. The recovery from the recession would have stalled.
Furthermore, Trump also opposes raising the minimum wage. Many, of the immigrants he would deport work for minimum wage or slightly above, doing jobs Americans do not want to do. Who would replace those workers? It appears Trump wants to replace immigrant minimum wage workers with native-born minimum wage workers even though it would throw millions into poverty.
Could Trump replace his own workers with the same talent, work ethic and low wages as the ones he will deport? The tens of thousands of American companies that employ undocumented workers would not be able to replace them either. Food would go unpicked on farms; construction projects would slow down; costs would go up; tax revenues would drop impacting not only the federal government and Social Security, it would hurt local governments by the loss of the sales taxes paid by 11.5 million consumers who would disappear under Trump.
In short, Trumps immigration plan would send the nation into recession, and the recovery would be very slow. Even if he brought manufacturing jobs back from Mexico and China, like he promises, many of those jobs would go to the unemployed or under-employed Americans. Who will fill the jobs held by undocumented immigrants today? If unemployed Americans wanted those jobs at the current wage scale, they would be doing them now.
One group is very uncomfortable with Trumps plan and that is every Republican candidate in the nation. Many do not want to embrace it for fear of alienating Latino voters, but they do not want to attack it because it would alienate the Republican base. Watch this space.