Few subjects elicit raw passion the way illegal immigration does. But what if you could eliminate all of the rage, fear, sympathy and politics surrounding the issue, what then? What if it was just a numbers game, and about pure brass tacks?
That's the way David Gewirtz, director of the U.S. Strategic Perspective Institute, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington, D.C., sees it. For him, it comes down to the single question of what can realistically be done with nearly 13 million people who are in the United States illegally.
In a perfect world, he says, they would all be rounded up and forced out. But 13 million people is a lot of flesh to move -- about as many folks who live in Illinois and nearly 5 percent of the nation's population. Using computer modeling and data analysis, Gerwitz recently completed a year-long study examining just how practicable it would be to ship every illegal immigrant home.
His conclusion: not very.
Assuming law enforcement could round up every illegal immigrant, Gewirtz says, it would take 166,666 buses to do the job, more than 13 billion gallons of fuel and about 48 million pounds of food to simply carry them to the nearest border. And that's not to mention the cost to rent the buses or to detain the immigrants while waiting to be transported.
"People who don't want immigrants to stay here," he tells Hair Balls, "none of them can answer the question of, 'If they don't stay, what would you do? How would you make it work logistically?' Whenever I ask them that question, all I get is, 'Well, it should be.' Our computer model doesn't show any way that it could work other than having the bulk of these illegals stay here. It doesn't look like any other choice will work logistically."
Based on this, Gewirtz believes tightening border security is essential, but America must make a stronger effort to integrate these 13 million or so souls into the mainstream. Measures like the one recently enacted in Arizona, he says, only clog up the courts and place more strain on local cops and make the overall problem worse. Hell, he says, if all of them were paying taxes, that could mean an extra $50 billion a year in tax revenue.
Gewirtz is taking his study and his argument to the politicians in D.C., but says he is having a tough time getting any real traction.
"I suggest separating away political or emotional issues," he says, and "policymakers say it's an interesting way to think about it ... but they're concerned that logic doesn't get them elected. And that's a real and valid concern."
Gewirtz makes no bones that he is a law and order man. He understands citizens who live along the border who claim they're scared of strangers fleeing through their yards, and sympathizes with people who don't want to give any quarter to those who have broken the law by coming to the United States illegally.
However, he says, "We've already let this happen and at this point it's a logistics issue and we have to deal."