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Immigrant-rights protesters at the Republican National Convention on July 20, 2016. (Photo: Julianne Hing)

Immigrant-rights protesters at the Republican National Convention on July 20, 2016. (Photo: Julianne Hing)

As Resistance Grows, Trump's Deportation Plans Unravel

Cost, impossible logistics, political opposition, and community resistance could spell the end of the president-elect's anti-immigrant scheme

Lauren McCauley

President-elect Donald Trump built his campaign on a pledge to build a wall and deport two to three million undocumented immigrants, but the likelihood that his promises will be kept are looking increasingly slim, as reality takes hold and lawmakers and community leaders begin to build their resistance.

The failure to execute Trump's oft-repeated deportation plans could "be one of the first reality checks on his administration," Politico reported Friday.

Speaking with experts and former immigration officials, reporter Ted Hesson outlined what it would take to implement the plan:

Trump would need tens of billions of dollars in new spending approved by Congress. He'd also need years to hire and train new legions of enforcement agents, and to deploy hundreds of judges to relieve the nation's severely backlogged immigration courts. And to find even two million undocumented immigrants to deport, he'd have to change how he defines criminal acts worthy of removal—or start rounding up people without convictions. Added together, the obstacles could be insurmountable.

According to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the average cost for each deportation is $12,213, excluding personnel salaries. So, to deport two million people, would add up to more than $24.4 billion over four years.

On top of that, a study published earlier this month by the San Francisco-based Immigrant Legal Resource Center found that Trump's pledge to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program would cost businesses an estimated $3.4 billion and reduce Social Security and Medicare funds by $24.6 billion over 10 years.

Cost aside, Hesson notes that "there don't appear to be anywhere near three million immigrants, legal or undocumented, who are deportable based on past criminal convictions." This would mean that the administration would have to "target many immigrants living in the U.S. legally"—who can legally be deported in the case of felonies and certain misdemeanors—as well as "undocumented immigrants who are low-level offenders," amounting to a policy that is "aggressive" and inhumane.

In addition to the myriad logistical roadblocks, the Trump's deportation plans are facing political obstacles as well.

Republican Senators Jeff Flake (Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (S.C.), and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) are banding together with their Democratic colleagues to resist Trump's plans to cancel DACA and will introduce a bipartisan measure to that effect after Congress convenes on Jan. 3.

Further, Bloomberg reported Friday, "the desire to build a wall along the entire 1,933-mile border with Mexico has evaporated" among GOP members of both chambers, who instead "support more fencing, border patrol agents, drones, and other resources to curb illegal entry."

Outside the halls of the Capitol, resistance to Trump's anti-immigrant proposals has taken an even bolder form.

A national coalition of progressive mayors, spearheaded by New York City mayor Bill de Blasio, has been "reinvigorated" since the election, the New York Times reported Thursday, as they have begun to rally their collective power to push local officials as well as outgoing President Barack Obama to pass measures in anticipation of the next administration.

"Any one city could say that we’re not going to turn our police forces into immigration enforcers," de Blasio told the Times. "But wouldn't it be stronger if 200 cities said it and did it simultaneously?"

The newspaper reports:

In a template for coordinated action, immigration officials from nine of the country’s largest cities, including Atlanta, Los Angeles and Chicago, and led by New York, held a conference call this month with the White House to press the Obama administration for swift changes on immigration before Inauguration Day.

Those requests included a call for early renewal of protected or deferred action status for immigrants who have it temporarily because of their countries of origin or because of Mr. Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

The group also urged the White House to formally end a special registration program for nonimmigrant visitors that grew out of the Sept. 11 attacks and that could provide a way to create a so-called Muslim registry, an idea endorsed by Mr. Trump during the campaign. Amid pressure from the mayors, Democrats in Washington and civil rights groups, the Obama administration moved last week to dismantle the program.

At the same time, the sanctuary city movement has also grown to a total of 47 cities, according to a recent tally, 37 of which reaffirmed their commitment after the election of Trump.

"We saw a presidential campaign based on fear and a desire to ostracize anyone who could be categorized as different," Joseph A. Curtatone, mayor of Somerville, Mass., a sanctuary city since 1987, wrote in an open letter last month. "That may have swung an election, but it provides us with no roadmap forward. Tearing communities apart only serves to tear them down."

But polling has shown that even Trump's ardent supporters don't necessarily support his deportation plans.

In an October survey conducted by Pew, 80 percent of all voters and full 60 percent of Trump voters said "undocumented immigrants should be able to stay in the U.S. if they meet certain requirements, compared with 37 percent who said they should not." Only 32 percent of Trump supporters said there should be a "national law enforcement effort to deport" all undocumented immigrants.

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