George Will Can't Count—Deportation No Problema
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[Recently by "An Economist": Go Home Now! An Economist Reader Provides The Speech Bush Should Give—But Won't]

The supposed physical impossibility of deporting 11 million illegal aliens has been often mentioned of late.

George Will may have invented this theme with his comment that:

"We are not going to take the draconian police measures necessary to deport 11 million people. They would fill 200,000 buses in a caravan stretching bumper-to-bumper from San Diego to Alaska-where, by the way, 26,000 Latinos live. And there are no plausible incentives to get the 11 million to board the buses." [Guard the Borders — And Face Facts, Too, By George F. Will, March 30, 2006]

Of course, Malaysia  just deported around the same number of illegals, adjusted for population. And the U.S. deported around 1 million illegals back in the 1950s with a just 700 agents (see Handbook of Texas Online: OPERATION WETBACK).

But let's focus on the logistics. Filling 200,000 buses sounds like a lot. However, America is a big country and our transportation system is huge.

For example, the intercity bus system carries 774 million passengers annually (see The Subcommittee on Highways, Transit & Pipelines Hearing on Transit & Over-The-Road Bus Security). That works out to be 2.12 million passengers per day.

At that rate it would take just a bit more than 5 days to remove the entire illegal alien population.

Of course, some illegals live quite close to the border and could probably be deported even faster. Other, say those in Alaska, might take somewhat longer. Still, five days really isn't that long a period of time.

We also have a large airline industry. In 2005, it carried 745.7 million passengers (Bureau of Transportation Statistics) or around 2.04 million passengers daily. Using just our airlines, around between five and six days would be enough to clear out the illegal aliens.

But if we did the obvious—use both airlines and buses—we could deport four million illegals daily and thus deport the alien population in less than three days.

In real life, no possible solution to the illegal alien problem would ever contemplate using our entire bus or airline systems for transportation.

However, what is clear is that the problem is easily manageable if the U.S. wanted to solve it.

Consider that if we used the 1950s border patrol approach, if each of our roughly 10,000 agents could deport one illegal alien per day, 2.5 million would be deported annually.

By the time word got out that an aggressive deportation policy had been implemented, the overwhelming majority (75-90%) of illegals would remove themselves.

That could translate into finishing the job in one short year.

Whether lightning-fast deportation is the right approach is another matter.

But whatever policy is ultimately adopted, the basic issue of practicality, despite the comments of Will and others, should not be in doubt.

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