In June of 2015, billionaire businessman Donald Trump launched his 2016 presidential campaign with a speech at Trump Towers in New York that was, in part, aimed squarely at Mexican illegal immigrants.
“They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime,” said Trump. “They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
That, naturally, began a lengthy debate about racism, ethics and the American way. And while even Trump himself has backed off some of his most inflammatory statements, he hasn’t backed off making immigration reform a cornerstone of his bid for the presidency.
The major points of Trump’s immigration plan — which you can read on his campaign website— are:
- Build a wall on the American-Mexican border and make Mexico pay for it
- End birthright citizenship
- Suspend certain types of work visas
- Triple the number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers
- Create criminal penalties for people who overstay a visa
But what many want to know is: If implemented, how much would Trump’s immigration plan cost? GOBankingRates asked several experts who have studied the issue and came up with some surprising answers.
1. It Could Cause Another Economic Downturn
If elected, Trump claims he would build a wall across the entire southern border of the U.S., make Mexico pay for it and deport the 11 million or so illegal immigrants living in the U.S. That’s a lot of active workers. In fact, the American Action Forum (AAF), a center-right policy institute, puts the figure at 6.4 percent of the American workforce. Pulling out that many workers could slow the already shaky economy.
Furthermore, the AAF predicts that the federal government would have to spend a total of $400 billion to $600 billion to address the roughly 11 million illegal immigrants and prevent future illegal entry into the U.S.
Trump’s plan would not only be extremely expensive, but it could affect major sectors of the economy, such as the hospitality, food, agriculture and construction sectors, said Michael R. Strain, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, who has written extensively on the Trump plan.
The AAF estimates that deporting 11 million people would take 20 years; Trump said he would do it in two with “good management.” Regardless, according to the AAF, the effect on the economy would be to shrink it by 6 percent, which works out to $1.6 trillion — or the equivalent of the GDP of Texas.
2. It Could Cost More Than $350 Per American
No matter how well-managed it is, a deportation force with instructions to round up, detain and deport more than 11 million people is going to cost a lot of money. And while the exact number is impossible to name, the AAF estimates it would be at least $100 billion and could cost up to $300 billion. And to prevent future illegal entry into the U.S., the cost would jump to around $400 billion to $600 billion.
In 2011, the ICE deputy director testified that $5 billion was spent on deporting 393,000 immigrants the year before. That’s about $12,500 per deportation, which translates to $137.5 billion for 11 million deportations. Meanwhile, the Center for American Progress estimates the cost would come down to about $114 billion — that’s more than $350 per American.
3. It Could Mean the Deportation of American Citizens
Trump said he would deport illegal immigrants “so fast that your head will spin” — that’s Trump speak for two years — but what are the unforeseen consequences to Americans?
“If you’re really talking about getting 11- to 12-million people out of the country and you don’t know exactly where they are and you’re talking about an 18-month timetable, I don’t know how you do that without having some kind of police force knock on doors,” said Strain. “That would really affect people.”
The real problem, he said, is that such a roundup would naturally include error. And in this case, “error” means American citizens being detained, held, interrogated and, in the worst case, deported.
Strain said that research into the numbers of Americans who would be erroneously deported is tough, but he did come up with some estimates. Based on research that was done at Northwestern University and the University of California, Berkeley’s law school, the number suggested would be about 1 percent or 100,000 American citizens apprehended erroneously.
Strain conceded, however, that it might not be that high — Trump is a great manager, after all. But even if it’s only a few thousand Americans tossed across the border, Trump’s plan is “pretty nutty and morally offensive,” said Strain.
4. It Could Hurt Home Values
Assuming that there are about 11 million to 12 million illegal immigrants in the country, that means they form four million households, said Jay Dwivedi, president of xInvest Consultants, which has been analyzing housing, building and construction sectors. He said that if those 11 million-plus illegal immigrants were deported, it’s also likely that several more million legal family members would go with them.
“That would cause havoc in the real estate market as a large number of houses come on the market and everyone sees a drop in price,” Dwivedi said. He said it’s also likely that illegal immigrants would stop maintaining or repairing their homes and stop paying mortgages or rents before their deportation. “This will result in a huge inventory of homes that are in disrepair and a massive disruption in the mortgage markets impacting financial institutions,” he said.
Dwivedi believes lower- and middle-class Americans would be hit the hardest. “They are more likely to live in neighborhoods where illegal immigrants live and might be renting to them, or doing business with them, such as [hiring them for] yard work, household work, etc.,” he said.
As for the states that would be most affected, Dwivedi said Texas, California, Florida, New York, New Jersey and Illinois would see the most disruption since they account for 60 percent of illegal immigrants, according to Pew Research Center.
5. It Could Increase Building Costs
Right now, one out of every six construction workers are in the country illegally, said Dwivedi. “The construction sector is already suffering from a labor shortage as American workers keep retiring or have refused to join the labor force due to depressed wages because of illegal immigrants. Their departure will cause costs of building and repairing homes to go up,” he said.
Dwivedi said xInvest Consultants’ research shows that if contractors hire legal workers, the labor cost in building and repair — or remodeling jobs — will jump to three times the current cost. This is “primarily because of being forced to pay a fair wage, complying with all other federal and state tax laws, and, if mandated in some states, even provide health insurance coverage,” said Dwivedi.
Keep Reading: 15 Things You Should Know About Trump’s Tax Plan
It should be said that, for various reasons, most of the experts said they found it highly unlikely that the Trump immigration plan will ever be set in motion.