To listen to Republicans in the presidential primary debates, you'd think Barack Obama had thrown open the borders to the United States to every Tom, Dick, and Juan who wants to stream over the southern border. That's not true, of course: Obama's deported nearly as many illegal immigrants in less than three years than George W. Bush did in eight.
But there are still illegal immigrants in the United States, so clearly he's doing something wrong. Right?
Maybe you can ship all 11 million illegal immigrants out of the country. But here's the thing, conservatives: You're going to need a much bigger federal bureaucracy to get the job done. According to a Washington Post profile this morning, the U.S. only has the budget to deport 400,000 illegal immigrants a year. At that rate, it'll only take 27.5 years to ship everybody else—assuming, of course, you can keep everybody else out.
If you want tougher enforcement that includes deportation of any immigrant found to be here illegally, you're going to have to raise the budget for border enforcement considerably. You're going to have to hire a lot of new immigration agents. That's going to expand the federal workforce—something conservatives seem to hate—and spend a lot of money, something conservatives undoubtedly hate. If bigger government is an evil in its own right, then the only solution here is more evil.
Or we could reform our system to offer more guest-worker visas and generally allow more legal immigration. But that would make too much sense.