If there was one memorable phrase from yesterday’s Republican presidential debate in Florida, based on what’s buzzing on social media, it has to be “self-deportation.” GOP hopeful Mitt Romney used the term to describe his approach to immigration in America, saying that the voluntary practice would reduce the number of undocumented immigrants. Self-deportation isn’t a Romney-ism – it’s an actual process that is meant to make life so unbearable for undocumented immigrants that they are forced to leave.
From America’s Voice 2011 report “‘Attrition through Enforcement’: Just Another Name for Mass Deportation” –
[The Center for Immigration Studies Executive Director Mark] Krikorian’s paper described a combination of policies, many of which have been systematically put into place by the Republican leadership of the House Judiciary Committee, and the rest of which are being proposed for the 112th Congress. His attrition doctrine would “combine an increase in conventional enforcement — arrests, prosecutions, deportations, asset seizures, etc. — with expanded use of verification of legal status at a variety of important points, to make it as difficult and unpleasant as possible to live here illegally.”
In addition to forced deportations, Krikorian argued that “additional measures would be needed to promote self-deportation”: “firewalls…that people could pass through only if their legal status is verified.” The primary example of such a “firewall” is the implementation of a mandatory E-Verify policy which would “require proof of legal status before starting a job.”
How bad can this policy get? We’ve already seen states like Alabama turn off water services to the homes of undocumented immigrants, and implement policies to scare families away from public schools and even health facilities – risking the public health of an entire population in order to demean the undocumented. And as Mother Jones points out, “This approach is notable for its complete lack of discretion and flexibility. Unauthorized immigrant parents with citizen children who need to go to school? Americans who are married to an undocumented immigrant who needs medical treatment? ‘Self-deportation’ hits them all with the same mailed fist.”
Reliable and safe access to food, water, health and education should not be luxuries in America — and denying them in order to promote self-deportation is a despicable solution to a far more complex problem. Jose Antonio Vargas summed up why he refuses to take part: