Big Bidness

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TPM Reader RC takes a disturbing and revealing look at the coming economic boom in the expulsion/interment camp industry when Trump’s mass expulsion gets underway. My only quibble is that since Trump says he’ll deport 11 million people in 18 months, it would be a shortlived industry. But estimates put the price tag at half a trillion dollars. So it would be a true bonanza for the contractors …

I’ve been wondering the same thing, but since I’m a planner and an architect, I’ve been wondering about it more on a physical and infrastructural level than about who supports it.

Ultimately, I think Trumps’ mass deportation will be credited with a sort of economic boom, at least for some sectors, in an even larger way than a massive infrastructure program might. Since I haven’t seen others analyzing what the program would actually entail, I decided to do some rough calculations based on land use, detention center size, and logistics to come up with one idea of how the camps might work. In my view, the mass expulsion industry will supplement prison privatization, and will likely become some of the most lucrative (and–by nature of their newness, their variation by state, and their immediate implementation–the most corrupt) government contracts available.

As I wrote here, after extremely aggressive enforcement early in the program, we might assume that about 3% of all undocumented immigrants (or about 360,000 people) could be held at one time. This leads us to expect a minimum of 200 US detention camps, each sized somewhat similarly to the largest US prisons, where we would expect to see the construction of a complement of storage facilities, parking, truck staging, maintenance, healthcare services, buildings for federal offices and hearings, facilities for housing those assisting with appeals, buffer zones, land set asides, etc. That suggests that each of these camps would occupy about 1,000 acres apiece, depending upon location, and each may even be coupled with its own deportation center airport or station. Each will, by its size, have a distinct presence in the landscape that will be an appropriate reminder of our increasingly militarized & aggressive society. We would anticipate that every camp will become a lot like a small heavily-militarized independent city, or may even take planning cues from an overseas military base in addition to US prison facilities.

With that sort of incarceration and deportation rate, it would take about 35 years to deport all undocumented immigrants currently in the United States, so there will likely be a push to move more quickly and to build more and larger centers as time goes on. This could be expected to result in worsening conditions for families being held, more false arrests and fear, more secrecy, exploding costs, and a greater physical impact on the landscape.

What we’re looking at here is an entirely new industry, one that includes building, servicing, and transporting, as well as a tremendous range of supplemental industries to all of those. It will become a new economic engine in some places, and a permanent part of the fabric of the entire nation.

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