There’s every reason to believe Donald Trump would intern Iranian Americans, if he could. He seemed to support Japanese internment in 2015 and refused to retract his views. One of his surrogates floated the idea of Muslim internment in 2016. Trump could use the precedent of Reagan’s Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), which had prepared a 40-page detailed memo for deporting thousands of legal alien residents of Libya, Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Tunisia, Algeria, Jordan and Morocco, in 1987. Many of these members of this INS Committee, as Politico reported, voted for Trump.
The INS plan was leaked to the public, who destroyed it through the New York Times, the ACLU, and the Japanese American Citizens League that remembered its own internment. There’s reason to believe we’d have this opposition and more today. After all, the “President-Child” is impeded at every turn by the media, the people, the legal courts and even by his own White House.
On the other hand, the President can leverage a little-reported National Security and Homeland Security Directive (NSPD-51 and NSPD-20) to do what he wants in a declared National Emergency, without congressional approval or oversight. This new directive, published on the White House website, had been fashioned by G.W. Bush, who was as hell-bent as Trump on getting his own way. Trump can pull some dated interment plan off the shelves, secretly round up certain Iranians in the dark of night, deploy emergency measures, such as exclude the public from deportation hearings – and do all of this without seeking Congressional oversight.
It’s unlikely that most Americans would abet him, but given they might, there’s another wrinkle. It’s called the cost-benefit analysis described by Jeff Suzuki in his book Constitutional Calculus: The Math of Justice and the Myth of Common Sense and goes like this.
Say March or June of next year, Iran pulls off a 9/11 scale attack and the government accuses Iranian-Americans of being potential spies. Here’s the bill the government would accrue:
- They’d have to pay the annual cost of housing one prisoner in a federal facility, which is about $20,000.
- They’d have to pay wrongfully incarcerated federal prisoners up to $50,000 per year of incarceration. According to the book The Eagle and the Lion, most Iranian-Americans are not potential terrorists, so the Trump admission will have to pay thousands of Iranian-Americans $105 billion a year.
Third, business disruption is difficult to evaluate, but the Small Business Administration (SBA) found Iranian immigrants among the top 20 immigrant groups with the highest rate of business ownership in America. More than 33,570 Iranian-American business owners gave the U.S. about $2.56 billion, as of 2006. About 50 percent of all working Iranian-Americans are in professional and managerial roles, greater than any other group in the United States. Iranians are prominent in academia and the sciences. So were Iranian-Americans to be interned, large portions of the country’s businesses would lose thousands, if not millions, of dollars. At least, 21.5% of Iranian-controlled self-employed businesses would grind to a stop, impacting America’s GDP.
There’d be losses in tax revenues and losses in science, educational and tourism opportunities. These are just some of the disruptions that would smatter America’s economy if Trump detains Iranian-Americans.
The cost benefits to internment on the 9/11 scale, on the other hand, are the following:
- About 3,000 individuals died in 9/11 resulting in about a $600 million loss to taxes, according to Suzuki.
- There’s the hazy GDP factor which is difficult to calculate, because in the 9/11 case America was already in recession, and, of course, we’re in a different economic period. Using different variables, Suzuki reckoned that America incurred about $90 billion in lost revenues.
The total? Call it $105 billion per year for interment, vs. a cost of about $20 billion for a 9/11 attack. That’s each year.
Now, of course, that’s assuming that Iran’s hypothetical attack is on the 9/11 scope. That’s also assuming the slim chance that Donald’s executive trick succeeds and that he subdues all opposition.
Only an incompetent businessman would understand that the interment strategy is an awful return on investment and just isn’t worth it.
In 2013, the humble Mr. Trump tweeted, “My IQ is one of the highest – and you all know it!”
Iranian-Americans may want to boost that delusion by showing the “master dealer” how much it’ll cost him if he detained them.
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