I’m struggling to understand conservatives’ support of Trump’s immigration policy. It just doesn’t make any sense, especially when comparing results against stated goals.
One would assume that the goals of the new immigration policy are to reduce the number of illegal immigrants in the country; to make sure that the immigrants we accept will be capable of taking care of their families and contributing positively to the workforce and our economy; and to make the entire immigration system fair, and as cost effective as possible. After all, taxpayers are footing the bill.
But even a cursory view of this administration’s immigration policy shows that we are achieving the opposite of our goals.
Before the Zero Tolerance Policy, many immigrants without criminal records were processed through the system and given a temporary work permit. Through an Alternatives to Detention Program, they would live and work freely, paying county, state and federal taxes, as well as making contributions into Social Security and Medicare – programs from which they will never benefit.
The Alternatives to Detention system cost taxpayers an average of $5 per person, per day, until that person processed through the system, which can stretch on for years. But, while awaiting court dates, these immigrants were a) not illegal, because they had been accounted for and were living and working under a permit; b) were able to provide for their families by working and living in the society they would like to join; c) were not much of a burden on taxpayers because their contributions to local and federal taxes and social services more than surpassed $5 per person, per day. Additionally, their kids were in school, preparing to be productive, educated members of society.
Today, the situation is altogether different. The Zero Tolerance Policy demands that 100 percent of people crossing illegally into the US must be incarcerated. The Alternatives to Detention Program has been halted altogether. And now that Attorney General Bill Barr has denied asylum seekers the opportunity to post bond, all of these folks will be incarcerated at taxpayer expense until their court date – potentially years in the future.
In the meantime, these immigrants are not working, or supporting their families, or paying county, state and federal taxes. They are not contributing to social security or Medicare. Their children are not in school. They are not being given the opportunity to assimilate into US culture – a constant worry of anti-immigrationists – because we are choosing to incarcerate them instead.
Much of the focus to date has been on the human rights abuses that are occurring in the detention centers, and that is absolutely where our focus should be. But there are some people in our culture who can look away from the humanitarian crisis that we’ve created and justify our actions with nationalist key messages. To these people, who often pretend to be fiscally conservative, I offer this:
The average cost to detain an immigrant under Trump’s Zero Tolerance policy is now an average of $208 per person, per day. As of this writing, we now have 55,000 people incarcerated. That’s $11,440,000 we’re spending PER DAY. Why?
Offer that stat to your conservative friends and let’s try to find some common ground on this issue.