What Is “Self-Deportation”?

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When Mitt Romney was asked how he’d fight illegal immigration in Monday night’s GOP debate, he said he advocated “self-deportation.” His comment was met with jeers from journalists and pols in my tweet stream—my favorite came from  : “Self-deport. I saw that on Star Trek one time”—but it’s a real term, the phrase of art, in fact, for the strategy behind the wave of anti-immigration bills introduced across the country in the last two years. The brainchild of anti-immigration groups like the Immigration Law Reform Institute, and its counsel, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (who recently endorsed Romney), self-deportation is the intended effect of laws and requirements (such as those passed in Arizona and Alabama) that would make it so difficult for undocumented immigrants to work, rent, or go to school that they will simply “choose” to leave. Anti-immigration advocates like this for several reasons: It has a free-market/free-will gloss to it. It purports to save money on deportation costs. And, most importantly, because it relies on states enforcing immigration via passing draconian laws rather than federal law enforcement/border efforts. It’s a conservative trifecta!

Update: Adam Serwer elaborates. Read it!

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is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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