$41 Billion to Remove Most Illegal Aliens

According to the Center for American Progress (pdf document) it would cost $41 billion per year (over 5 years) to remove illegal immigrants.

I have no idea if this number is too high, too low, or about right. The study does have some numbers backing it up, but again I have little way judging the numbers in terms of drawing inferences as to the costs of massive deportation.

Recent reports of worksite enforcement, however, offer a useful indicator of average apprehension costs. We extrapolate from the available evidence to provide an estimate of the per-apprehension cost. In 1999, 240 agents apprehended 2,849 unauthorized workers, and, as noted above, 90 agents apprehended 445 unauthorized workers in 2003.28 Assuming a typical annual cost of $175,714 per agent,29 and after summing the number of apprehensions (3,289) and agents (330), the average apprehension cost comes to $17,603. Assuming a 20% voluntary departure rate, the total costs for apprehending 8,000,000 undocumented immigrants would be $141 billion over five years. (Using the same average apprehension figure, apprehending 9,000,000 immigrants would cost $158 billion over five years.)

Is 20% voluntary departure realistic? Is it too high or too low? We really have very little information to go on. As such this study is pretty much a guess. Still, I’m pretty sure that the cost of deporting millions of illegal immigrants would be large. Also, there are other factors to consider. For example, immigration is probably one of the reasons why Social Security isn’t as bad off as it otherwise might be. Also, removing several million workers from the work force would likely have an adverse impact. Sure wages would go up, but unless prices go up to cover these higher costs (and they can’t, at least not in all cases) then some (many?) firms will have to shut down.

FILED UNDER: Economics and Business, US Politics, ,
Steve Verdon
About Steve Verdon
Steve has a B.A. in Economics from the University of California, Los Angeles and attended graduate school at The George Washington University, leaving school shortly before staring work on his dissertation when his first child was born. He works in the energy industry and prior to that worked at the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the Division of Price Index and Number Research. He joined the staff at OTB in November 2004.


  1. Instead of wasting money hunting them down, why not allocate resources and enforce the laws already on the books to get them to leave on their own?

    Or, better yet, provide transportation and tunnels to get to Canada where the Socialist Welfare State is blossoming nicely?

  2. Greg says:

    Any adverse impacts from removing *illegal* aliens from this country would be more than offset by the positives. Costs to our health care system, law enforcement, welfare, education. FYI, some states are giving financial aid to illegals so they can attend college.

    Also, the estimated dollar cost of getting rid of these people is chump change in the federal budget and the annual GDP.

    There is also something to be said for upholding the constitution by enforcing the laws and protecting our borders and citizens.

  3. McGehee says:

    How much is a nation’s sovereignty worth? I’m thinking $41 billion would be a bargain…

  4. I commented on just one aspect of this study here.

    There’s more I could add, such as how the false choice they offer is similar to the false choice previously offered by our former border czar, Asa Hutchinson (“Deporting all illegals not realistic”, WashTimes).

  5. Senantor Bill Frist on Securing America’s Borders


    I wanted to reach out to you about an issue you’ll be hearing a lot about in the days and months ahead…the security of our borders.

    We are facing a crisis.

    Over 7,000 miles of land span our borders; 330 million non-citizens flow through those borders every year…an alarming number of them illegally.

    Make no mistake, most of the people crossing our borders illegally do so for one simple reason:

    They are coming to America in search of opportunity and prosperity and a better life.

    That’s why they risk their lives…and, sadly, some even lose their lives to get here.

    Hundreds of illegal immigrants died last year in the deserts and mountains that separate the United States from Mexico.

    Now more than ever, as a matter of law, as a humanitarian matter, as a matter of national security, we must protect our nation’s borders.

    We MUST:

    -Deploy more patrol agents and investigators to our borders.
    -Equip these professionals with the very best equipment and technology available.
    -Build an enduring infrastructure — frontline defenses — that will protect our borders for years to come.

    These are just a few of the steps that will secure America’s borders.
    Because when we enhance the security of our borders, we increase the safety of our citizens and all who set foot on American soil.

    As this is an issue of such profound importance, I would like to hear your opinion on the matter.

    So please visit http://www.SecureAmericasBorders.com today to participate in my Security and Immigration Survey.

    I look forward to your response.

    Bill Frist, M.D.
    Senate Majority Leader