Talking about our country's immigration system not only gives me a headache, but also reminds me of that random junk drawer that everyone has in their kitchen.
You know it's there, you know it has some useful stuff in it, and you know you should clean it out, but you just don't want to.
Last Thursday at a press conference in Washington D.C, House Speaker John Boehner shot down pretty much any hope that Congress would pass a comprehensive immigration reform law in 2014.
After being asked about the topic, it took him about 10 seconds to point his finger at the White House and cite the lack of trust between Congress and the Obama administration as the cause of stagnation on this issue.
Distrust may very well be a part of this to some extent, but it is also true that immigration overhaul is getting brushed under the rug so that neither party has to suffer the consequences in the upcoming midterms; former Republican Rep. Steve LaTourette described it is a "tough issue" for midterm election years. In other words, it could be divisive and they just don't feel like doing it right now.
At first glance, this may not seem like an incredibly pressing issue, and in comparison to many things it's not. Between the looming debt ceiling, the slaughtering in Syria and the threat of an Olympic terrorist attack, I can see why people are sitting around stroking their beards and saying, "Hmm, what to do about immigration?" That being said, it costs us a lot more than we think, and the longer it takes them to come up with a solution, the more complex the solution will have to be.
As of right now, there are an estimated 11 million undocumented people in the U.S. Now I'm no expert on tax code and financial policy, but I'm guessing that many people could generate a lot of income tax if they were given citizenship. And in 2008 the Social Security Administration stated that three-fourths of illegal citizens already contribute to the "overall solvency of social security and medicare."
Even though those numbers are heartening, I can also see the downsides of just giving citizenship to 11 million people; many would qualify for government aid and other benefits and now that the ACA is in full swing, that would be 11 million more people that could receive public healthcare – an expensive notion for the strapped federal government.
But I think it's worth noting that the current system we have is inefficient, broken and also very expensive. The Immigration Policy Center estimates that we spend $186.8 billion on immigration enforcement every year, and in 2011 the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement stated that deporting one immigrant costs $12,500 when you take into account detention, legal costs, travel, etc.
On top of these sky-high costs, we have the detention bed mandate, possibly one of the most asinine laws I have ever heard of. This mandate requires ICE to have a minimum of 34,000 immigrant detainees in their custody every single day. If that $186.8 billion for enforcement didn't make you balk, this should: detaining one person costs about $120 per day. Now multiply that times 34,000 and account for every day of the year. I'm terrible at math, but even I know that is an unnecessary, frivolous amount of money.
There has to be a more efficient way to deal with this issue. Either deport them and get it over with or give them citizenship and let them fully contribute to society through a more comprehensive tax system. In all honesty I have never held an incredibly strong opinion either way. I think both sides have pros and cons and, just like that kitchen drawer, you don't really know until you clean it out. But sitting around and passing laws like the bed mandate in order to satisfy an ignorant constituency that think Mexicans are taking over the U.S. is just plain stupid.
Boehner might think it's not the time to pass reform, but not wanting to lose midterm votes is no excuse to continue such a useless, costly system.
Katie Dean is a junior in political science. She can be reached at email@example.com.