Trump’s deportation plan could plunge millions into poverty across the Americas

Guatemalan immigrant Amariliz Ortiz holds a doll as she joins families impacted by the immigration raids during a rally with Members of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, CHIRLA, outside the ICE Metropolitan Detention Center downtown Los Angeles, Tuesday, May 17, 2016. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)

As President Donald Trump’s administration finalizes new executive orders to deport millions of undocumented immigrants, migration experts warn that the move could drag millions of families into poverty in the U.S. and across Latin America.

Last week, Trump outlined his deportation plan in two executive orders that call for an additional 5,000 Border Patrol officers, 10,000 new Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents, asylum officers and immigration judges.

The orders also call for more detention facilities along the southern border to hold undocumented immigrants caught entering the country, and confirmed Trump’s campaign promise that none of the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants will be exempt from possible deportation.

This week, the Washington Post received drafts of two additional executive orders that the president is reportedly considering. Among other things, they call for the deportation of poor legal immigrants who receive any government assistance, and make it much harder for low-income immigrants to move to the U.S.

“The unlawful employment of aliens has had a devastating impact on the wages and jobs of American workers, especially low-skilled, teenage, and African American and Hispanic workers,” the draft order says.

But many experts have warned that mass deportation of the nation’s immigrants would devastate sectors of the U.S. economy. A new report by the Center for Migration Studies (CMS) warned that the move would reduce gross domestic product (GDP) by 1.4 percent in the first year, and reduce cumulative GDP by $4.7 trillion over 10 years.

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“President Trump has cast his executive orders on immigration as a public safety imperative,” Donald Kerwin, CMS executive director and a report co-author, said in a statement. “However, if implemented, the orders would impoverish millions of families and U.S. citizen children, at great cost to the broader community. They would also imperil the housing market and dramatically reduce GDP.”

According to the study, removing undocumented residents from mixed-status households would reduce median household income by 47 percent, plunging millions of U.S. families into poverty. Even if just one-third of the U.S.-born children of undocumented parents remained in the country after mass deportation, the report puts the cost of raising those children at $118 billion.

A man says goodbye to his partner through the U.S.-Mexico border fence, which deportees cross to return to their home country. (Nina Robinson, BBC World Service/Flickr)

A man says goodbye to his partner through the U.S.-Mexico border fence, which deportees cross to return to their home countries. (Nina Robinson, BBC World Service/Flickr)

The largest population of the country’s Latinos are in California, where they constitute 39 percent of the state, according to a new study by advocacy group National Council of La Raza (NCLR).

California’s Latinos have made great economic strides in recent years, according to the study, having seen an increase in median household income and a decrease in poverty. Latino-owned businesses are also on the rise, and more of the state’s Latino children now have health insurance.

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The impact of noninclusive immigration policies on California’s economy could be “pretty detrimental,” Marisabel Torres, NCLR senior policy analyst, told Humanosphere.

The majority of California’s Latinos are U.S. citizens, she said, “but there is a sizable immigrant population in the state that contribute to the economy. A lot of the legislators in this state see the value not only in morally in protecting this segment of the population, but they see their economic value.”

Migration experts have long documented the mutual benefits of immigrants to economies in the U.S. as well as abroad. A recent study by the Center for Global Development revealed that short-term overseas work was mutually beneficial to the U.S. and Haitian economies. Such work benefits Haitian farmers and their families much more than traditional forms of aid, raising workers’ current earnings on average by multiple of 15.

But perhaps the greatest economic blow abroad would be felt in Mexico, whose U.S.-based citizens sent home almost $27 billion in 2016 – the highest yearly figure on record, according to Mexico’s central bank. Trump has suggested the U.S. might retain some remittances to pay for a wall between the countries, a project Mexico has repeatedly refused to pay for.

Like many countries that rely on money from abroad, remittances have become the most important source of foreign income in Mexico, which is receiving just $85.6 million in U.S. foreign aid this fiscal year. Mexico’s poverty rate has been over 50 percent for more than 25 years.

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Lisa Nikolau

Lisa Nikolau is a Madrid-based reporter for Humanosphere, covering gender equality, indigenous rights and poverty in Latin America and worldwide. Find her on Twitter at @lisanikolau, email lisa.nikolau@humanosphere.org or see her latest work at www.lisanikolau.com