It's hard not to see that the anti-immigration wing of the Republican Party is ascendant right now. GOP leaders in Congress have spent the last two months trying—and failing—to roll back protections for millions of undocumented immigrants, children included. The chances for major legislation in the next two years are pretty much nil.
Yet with conservatives still reeling from their defeat in a battle over immigration policy and security funding earlier this week, a right-leaning policy group is releasing a new report aimed at nudging the GOP back toward the center. The study, which the American Action Forum plans to publish later on Friday, tests a rather straightforward proposition frequently offered by opponents of comprehensive immigration reform: How much would it cost to "immediately and fully enforce current law"—that is, to deport all undocumented immigrants while preventing another wave of people from entering illegally?
The answer, researchers found, is quite a lot, both to taxpayers and the economy more broadly. Removing all 11.2 million undocumented immigrants, both forcibly and through Mitt Romney's infamous "self-deportation" policy, would take about 20 years and cost the government between $400 billion and $600 billion. The impact on the economy would be even larger, according to the study: Real GDP would drop by nearly $1.6 trillion and the policy would shave 5.7 percent off economic growth. Researchers Laura Collins and Ben Gitis also write that their estimates are conservative, since they do not include, for example, the cost of constructing new courts, prisons, and other buildings that might be needed to process and detain millions of immigrants.