As its first major action in the 114th Congress, the GOP tea-party controlled House voted yesterday to deport the nearly 12 million people living in the United States illegally, including many families who have been U.S. residents for decades.
Republicans, who won additional seats in the House and control of the Senate in the midterm elections, claimed their action to overturn Pres. Obama’s executive action to stop mass deportations expressed the will of voters. In fact, the president did not issue his executive action until after the Nov. 4 elections. In their messaging about the bill, GOP representatives persistently referred to the president’s order as “illegal amnesty,” ignoring the fact that recent Republican presidents, including Ronald Reagan, issued 18 similar executive orders revamping immigration policies.
Despite the fact that terror attacks in Paris had drawn international attention less than a week earlier, Republicans gamed a crucial funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security with partisan ploys intended to force mass deportations. GOP amendments to the bill funding the government’s anti-terrorism activities targeted undocumented residents, especially the “Dreamers,” young people who were brought into the country when they were children or infants:
One of the amendments would choke off funding for Obama’s executive action announced in November, which would allow some illegal immigrants to stay in the country and obtain work permits.
A second amendment would halt the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program (DACA), which lifts deportation for some illegal immigrants who came to the United States as children.
The defunding amendment was adopted in a 237-190 vote, with seven Republicans voting no, while the DACA amendment was approved 218-209, with 26 Republicans defecting.
In a floor speech, Speaker John Boehner, the hapless leader of the House, claimed he had no choice but to advocate mass deportations. “We do not take this action lightly,” Boehner said, “but simply there is no alternative.” In fact, as the speaker surely knew, there was a constitutional alternative, also known as “governing.” The House could have simply passed a bill to reform immigration procedures.
Despite Republican claims that theirs is the party of fiscal responsibility, no estimates of the cost of the mass deportations their bill required were included in the bill, nor was there a plan for covering the costs for investigating, rounding up and arresting, charging, incarcerating and transporting back to their native countries the estimated 11.8 million undocumented children, women and men — a number slightly larger than the population of Ohio — who live in the United States.
In 2010, the Center for American Progress estimated [PDF] the cost of mass deportations to be around $285 billion. These estimates included $158 billion for arresting the families living here illegally, $29 billion for incarcerating them, $7 billion legal costs to taxpayers and $6 billion to transport the families back to their countries of origin.
These figures do not include the loss of the $13 billion per year — over $100 billion in the last decade — that unauthorized workers pay into the U.S. Social Security system via falsified documentation — a contribution to Social Security that they will never recoup.
Absent a plan to cover these costs, the Big Government GOP approach to covering costs for mass deportations is the same as it usual strategy — the way the party it paid for its invasion of Iraq back in the spring of 2003 and its Medicare Part D law a few months later: Borrow the billions from the Chinese and others and pass the debt to future generations.