Guest Editorial: GOP peddles deportation deceit

USA Today
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Businessman Donald Trump has made calls for deporting the roughly 11.3 million undocumented immigrants in the USA a staple of his campaign.

And recently Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who is emerging as Trump’s leading rival for the Republican presidential nomination, has jumped on board the deportation train, saying he too would remove them all.

Mass deportation is a popular position among many voters in the GOP primaries and caucuses. But the concept is so unworkable that it’s a wonder anyone takes the idea very seriously.

Any president who tried to deport 11 million people, the equivalent of emptying out the state of Ohio, would face immediate practical and political problems. Some 60 percent of today’s undocumented workers have been in the USA for 10 years or more. They have been integrated into their communities.

What’s more, 3.5 million of the undocumented immigrants who have been here at least six years (and could therefore receive leniency under an Obama administration executive order being disputed in court) have children who are U.S. citizens. Removing them would involve splitting up families or sending kids to what — to them — are foreign countries.

Locating millions of immigrants for deportation would take a very dramatic increase in domestic surveillance and enforcement, including door-to-door roundups. Mistakes would inevitably be made, with legal immigrants and citizens swept up in the process. Courts that handle immigration cases would be overwhelmed.

Although mass deportation might play well in Republican primaries, the idea would be a much tougher sell in a general election.

Roughly two-thirds of respondents to a Gallup poll said they favored giving undocumented workers a chance to normalize their status. In the 2012 election, GOP candidate Mitt Romney, who had merely suggested that illegal immigrants “self deport,” received just 27 percent of the Hispanic vote, effectively dooming his chances.

Yes, the law should have meaning, and tough border enforcement should be coupled with an arduous path to legality for anyone already here. In fact, the Obama administration has deported not insignificant numbers, mostly of people apprehended along the border.

In 2013, the most recent year for which there are data, 438,000 were sent home. President Obama has received some blowback for these deportations. The opposition would grow considerably if his successor tried to greatly increase that number, and to draw from the ranks of those firmly rooted in American communities.

For these reasons, campaign talk of deporting 11 million should be taken with extreme skepticism. Trump, in fact, has hinted about flexibility on his immigration positions, raising the possibility that his extreme position represents an opening bid. If that’s the case, he should come out and say so.

One reason Trump and Cruz are doing so well is that voters are tired of establishment politicians who don’t keep their promises. On deportation, the front-runners are making a promise they know they won’t be able to deliver on.