It was no coincidence when President Trump, only days before the release date of the redacted version of the Mueller report, threatened to dump undocumented immigrants into states and cities with sanctuary laws that protect many of them from deportation.
Trump, after all, is a master of misdirection. Creating a furor that distracts attention from what could be a major crisis for him and his presidency is a tactic he’s used before and very likely will again.
But the move he threatened would itself be self-defeating. Yes, Trump floated the idea of saddling heavily Democratic-voting cities and states, most prominently California, with what he trumpets as an incredible burden.
“Let’s see how they like it,” he mused. “Let them deal with it.”
But his reasoning had two big flaws: First, releasing illegal immigrants in one place doesn’t mean they stay there. Studies as early as the 1990s, when California was the first stop for almost half the undocumented immigrants arriving in America, showed barely half of them stayed here.
Many thousands even 25 years ago used California points as mere way stations en route to jobs and family in other states. The results of that secondary intra-national migration are now clear: Texas currently hosts about 3 million illegal immigrants; Georgia has a quarter million, South Carolina an estimated 100,000, Illinois and New York many more than that.
These are a mix of direct migrants and secondary immigrants who went to those places – mostly Republican-voting states – with no interference from U.S. authorities because there are virtually no impediments to anyone’s movement within America.
So releasing thousands of illegal immigrants now held in federal facilities near the Mexican border into the San Francisco district of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, as Trump specifically threatened, would have little impact. There is virtually no low-cost housing for them in that district, where rents and home prices are among the highest-priced anywhere. The undocumented could simply hop a city streetcar, and head elsewhere quickly, many catching a bus to other states.
So much for the Trump threat, which would likely end up putting as many illegal immigrants in Republican states as Democratic ones. That’s beside the fact that such dumping is unconstitutional because the move would be intended to force California and its cities into helping enforce federal immigration policy. The U.S. Supreme Court has held at least three times that federal officials cannot coerce states and cities into assisting its enforcement of national policies.
Then there’s the implied economic threat. This is based on the longstanding contention of anti-illegal immigrant groups that the undocumented create vast financial burdens on locales where they settle, saddling those places with great expenses.
But a study this spring from the California Budget and Policy Center reported this state’s approximately 2.5 million undocumented immigrants pay at least $3.2 billion per year in income, property, sales and other taxes. While many don’t have Social Security or other tax identification numbers, funds are withheld from their paychecks and property taxes are paid as part of their rent.
This all comes to an average of about $1,300 per undocumented person living here, adult or child, or more than $5,000 for a family of four. It would be hard to prove that typical illegal immigrants cause more costs than that in using public services. These numbers, of course, do not include things like transit fares or other money paid directly to public agencies like museums and state parks. Nor do they include federal taxes, also withheld from the paychecks of illegals, whose payments into sometimes phony Social Security accounts that will never be used help immensely in propping up that system.
A new influx of the undocumented would likely produce similar amounts of taxes, per capita.
So this Trump “threat” turns out to be the tamest of paper tigers. Like much of the President’s bluster, it was not thought through, nor was it subjected to any analysis, merely getting tweeted on a Trumpian whim.
All of which means it will likely be forgotten soon.