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Trump's mass-deportation plan would have big economic consequences for South Florida

Max Greenwood and Syra Ortiz Blanes, Miami Herald on

Published in News & Features

MIAMI — During a rally in Hialeah last fall, Donald Trump regaled supporters with a pledge to undertake “the largest domestic deportation operation in American history” if they helped put him back in the White House.

The comment, which has become a cornerstone of Trump’s agenda for a second term in Washington, was met with a roar of applause, as supporters in the majority-immigrant city cheered the former president’s pledge to end what he has declared an “invasion” by migrants entering and settling in the United states illegally.

Even in the Capital of the Americas, where most of the population was born outside the U.S., Trump’s hardline immigration platform has struck a chord.

But experts, activists and immigrants, both documented and undocumented, told the Miami Herald that the impact of an effort to pull a key section of the labor force out of the country en masse would likely have far-reaching consequences for the economy, making everyday life harder for American citizens across the country – and especially in Miami-Dade County.

The Department of Homeland Security estimates that Florida had the third-largest population of undocumented immigrants in the country, home to about 590,000 undocumented immigrants in 2022. The Pew Research Center, has estimated that number to be closer to 900,000, finding that more than 400,000 were likely living in South Florida around the time that Trump won the 2016 election.

“If you were to deport half a million people from Florida and remove them from the Floridian economy that would undoubtedly create a recession in the state,” said Tarek Hassan, an economics professor at Boston University who has conducted in-depth research about how immigrants contribute to U.S. development and growth.

 

A mass deportation campaign would be logistically difficult to carry out, hamstrung by federal laws and the requirement that countries of origin accept immigrants on deportation flights.

But Trump’s agenda would likely exacerbate the gap in Florida’s job market, which has 53 available workers for every 100 open positions, according to an analysis from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. As a result, experts believe that the labor pool for Florida’s agriculture sector and its lucrative tourism industry would suffer. Construction projects – ranging from high-end and commercial builds to smaller undertakings like roof repairs – would become both more expensive and slower to complete.

“There would be a real slowdown in construction activity,” said Edward Murray, assistant director at FIU’s Jorge M. Perez Metropolitan Center, noting that development has been driving the local economy for years.

An analysis by Miami-Dade County’s Office of New Americans found that immigrants represent over half the working population in the county, and the majority of workers in several essential industries, such as manufacturing, agriculture, food manufacturing and construction. They are 27.8% more likely to be of working age or employed than their U.S.-born counterparts, the study found.

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