Deporting Illegal Residents is Not Punishment

ICE.XCheckII.3cops1arrestAs the presidential candidate debates continue to focus on immigration and the willingness or unwillingness of the candidates to enforce the law against those residing illegally in the country, increasingly apologists for the illegal residents say that deportation is not an option because there are too many to deport. And they say that illegal residents including criminal aliens who are released after serving their punishment should not be deported because that would be double punishment.

A new report by the Pew Research Center bears on these contrived arguments. According to data from the Mexican government, between 2009 and 2014 a million Mexicans who had been residing in the United States returned to reside in Mexico. Included in that number were accompanying children born in the United States, as they are also considered by the Mexican government to be Mexican citizens. This number of returnees included 14 percent who acknowledged they had been deported while most cited family reunification as the reason for their return.

The Mexican data do not identify how many of those who returned voluntarily for family reunification were illegally residing in the United States, but it is reasonable to assume that they included a significant number. Their voluntary return to Mexico implies that they did not consider it a hardship or punishment.

The data point to the preparation of persons who come here illegally to eventually return to their home country and to return as a family unit.

The argument of the defenders of illegal residents that deportation of 11 to 12 million persons (or more) is the only way to remove them is disingenuous, as they no doubt know. The argument that deportation will only result in separation of “mixed-status” families is also false despite their ability to produce a few poster cases of illegal residents who will make that claim. Family separation happens when a migrant leaves his family to move to the United States. Rather than then assuming that the only place the family can be reunited is in the United States, the Mexican data demonstrate the willingness of Mexicans to return to Mexico to reunite the family. That is seen as a positive benefit, not a punishment.

About Author


Jack, who joined FAIR’s National Board of Advisors in 2017, is a retired U.S. diplomat with consular experience. He has testified before the U.S. Congress, U.S. Civil Rights Commission, and U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform and has authored studies of immigration issues. His national and international print, TV, and talk radio experience is extensive (including in Spanish).


  1. avatar

    Why don’t they make being in this country illegally a felony with a $2500 fine PLUS six months in jail. How fast do you think the illegal aliens would leave this country? If they don’t and are caught, we make money and it would help in the cost of deporting them after they get out of jail and pay the fine.

    Also, why don’t they make entering this country illegally a felony with the same fine? This will cover both borders and all ports. No, it wouldn’t stop any terrorist or drug dealer, but it would give our border patrol more time to watch for them. This may not be the complete fix, but I do believe it will help. What do you think?

    • avatar

      A bill sponsored by Congressman Sensenbrenner to make illegal immigration a felony was introduced a few years ago. The demonstrations against it were the biggest ever on illegal immigration. Of course, those against it didn’t use facts and figures, as facts and figures are against them. They flooded the media with images of sobbing women and children, etc.

    • avatar

      It seems that, since those demonstrations, politicians and others have really been tiptoeing around the subject of illegal immigration. They don’t want to offend illegal immigrants, but don’t care about Americans and legal immigrants harmed by depression of wages due to too many people for too few jobs, overcrowding, long waits in traffic, depletion of our natural resources, etc. Yet, if a lot of poorly educated Americans flooded into Mexico demanding jobs, food stamps, etc., they’d be hustled out of the country right away. Mexico is horrible to Guatemalans trying to sneak into Mexico.

      • avatar

        Cici get your story straight most if not almost all Welfare recipients are citizens and green card holders… some math………

  2. avatar

    Of course deporting aliens is justice. Whether they or anyone else considers it punishment is irrelevant. Great point that reunification does not have to be in the U.S. Is family reunification a legitimate goal anyways of immigration policy? I don’t know that much about the issue and I’m not sure.

  3. avatar

    Latinos are basically engaging in blackmail. They’re telling politicians either vote to approve our illegal behavior and law breaking or we will vote against you.