About a year ago, when Republicans were still brooding over the damage wrought by Mitt Romney’s “self-deportation” position on immigration, you would have guessed that political considerations alone would have inhibited them from the sort of deport ’em all rhetoric we’re hearing today. Beyond that, there’s a certain, well, ethical reluctance you’d expect given the historical associations raised by excitement over packing up large groups of people (including many children) and transporting them out of the country like cattle.

But since neither of these factors seems to be having any effect, it’s useful that TNR’s Danny Vinik has drawn attention to estimates of the costs of deporting the undocumented:

In 2010, researchers at the Center for American Progress (CAP) calculated the total costs of such a program by breaking down the deportation process into four parts: Apprehension, detention, legal proceedings and transportation. Using data from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), CAP estimated the cost of each part of that process per undocumented immigrant. For instance, for the 2008 fiscal year, each apprehension cost $18,310. For 30 days of detention, the cost was $3,335. The researchers also assumed that 20 percent of undocumented immigrants would voluntarily leave under a mass deportations program. That would leave DHS to find and deport the remaining 80 percent.

After running the numbers, CAP estimated the cost for deporting 10.8 million undocumented immigrants in America would be $200 billion over five years. DHS would also need $17 billion each year thereafter for continued enforcement. But there are more undocumented immigrants currently in the United States than when CAP produced its report. The DHS’s most recent report, from January 2012, estimates there are 11.5 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States. Adjusting for that increases the costs to $216 billion.

Vinik raises that figure to $239 billion after adjusting it for inflation, and notes that this represents about four times the annual funding level for the entire Department of Homeland Security. Add in the cost of foregone revenue from taxes paid on income earned (and generated) by the undocumented, and you’ve got a very expensive proposition.

Do you suppose this information might have an impact on tight-fisted Tea types who are focused like a laser beam on fiscal policy (they’re not, but that’s a popular MSM myth)? Nah. To hear Sarah Palin tell it, failing to deport the undocumented is an impeachable offense, so presumably these costs should be first in line for funding, or at least second or third after aging Tea Folk collect their Social Security and Medicare benefits.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.