David Francis at the Christian Science Monitor write about an important point that I've raised periodically, and which gets far too little attention: the cost of immigration enforcement without reform.
Beside the moral, humanitarian, and legal issues surrounding illegal immigrants, their apprehension poses a sizable financial cost. In Arizona, police could arrest them under the new state law, but keeping them in already crowded jails costs roughly $100 a day per person. For 5,000 people, imprisonment costs could add up to $182.5 million a year. That's a hefty charge for a state struggling with a budget deficit of at least $368 million.
Presumably Arizona could save money by handing illegal immigrants over to the federal government for deportation. In fiscal 2008, the US deported 369,221 people. Deportations rose to 389,834 in 2009 under the Obama administration, and are predicted to reach 400,000 this fiscal year.
Whether Washington will pay for more deportations is problematic. The United States deports each year less than 4 percent of its estimated 11 million illegal immigrants. At that rate, it would take more than two decades to deport all of them.
One obvious conclusion is that even if the Arizona law is upheld, it simply won't be enforced. The ultimate irony is that the law was written precisely because the federal government was passing laws it could not enforce. States may well just be copying the blueprint of legislative failure.