There are an estimated 11.1 million illegal immigrants in the United States. The cost of a trial and deportation for each is about $12,500 and takes about three years. The total cost for all would be around $137 billion.When an illegal is stopped, they are given a choice of voluntary deportation to Mexico in return for no prosecution or getting in line for a trial in a few years. During the time they are awaiting trial they are not detained and are free to work—the cost of imprisoning anyone is about $60,000 a year now.
In the past few years the numbers crossing from Mexico into the United States have dwindled with greater border enforcement. The border is nearly 2000 miles long so that patrolling its entire length is very difficult and expensive. Fencing even a large part of it would be prohibitively expensive. There are over 350 million legal crossings each year—the most of any border in the world. Calls for absolute border enforcement often fail to note these difficulties.
The immigration code contains both civil and criminal codes and those who merely overstay their visas or who enter the country without documentation are only in violation of the civil portion, not the criminal portion.
Democrats are generally supportive of a reform that includes a path to citizenship, but Republicans are very badly split and in addition, Senator Marco Rubio, a leading conservative and Tea Party favorite has signed on to reform including a path to citizenship. He has been roundly criticized for his position, but he is one of the party's best hopes for recovering some of the growing Hispanic vote.
The question is whether any sensible reform can be passed in this atmosphere. The GOP would like to see the issue die without having it die on their doorstep, but that hope may be vain.
It would be interesting to hear what people here think about the issue, which is heating up considerably.