NBC News finds that Donald Trump’s un-American plan to ban Muslims from entering the US would be a bureaucratic nightmare that would not only cost tens of billions of dollars, but would force the government to enact a religious test through “a massive interrogation machine.”
“Currently, the U.S. immigration system costs over $21.5 billion per year, counting spending by Homeland Security and the State Department,” writes NBC News. “Experts said actually implementing a global screening test for Muslim immigrants could swell that cost to $40 billion, $60 billion, or far more.”
“Leaders in both parties have condemned the ban as discriminatory, counterproductive and probably unconstitutional.”
As with many of his plans, Donald Trump has not detailed how he would carry out this religious test or even pay for it, other than telling MSNBC last December that custom agents “would say, ‘Are you Muslim?’ during screenings, and then reject anyone who said yes,” writes NBC.
Officials with screening experience say it wouldn’t be that simple.
Any applicant bent on criminal activity can foil a generic screening that relies on the honor system.
“The difficulty is if people lie,” said Doris Meissner, who served as INS Commissioner for seven years.
“I don’t know how you would check against that — it is impractical,” Meissner told NBC News.
Proving applicants are lying about their belief system is “an impossibility,” said Michael Wildes, an immigration expert.
“This is new territory and you will have prejudice involved,” he said, adding, “there is no way” to individually question every visitor on their religion.
David Leopold, former president of an association of immigration lawyers, said enacting a religious test would require “a massive interrogation machine.”
“At least with criminal history, there are databases,” he said, while vetting applicants’ beliefs “is completely subjective.”
Depending on how the ban is described, it polls well with Republicans and some other voters.
Leopold said it doesn’t matter whether people like the idea or if Trump genuinely thinks he can implement it — an accurate screening of all Muslim immigrants “is absolutely unworkable.”
Leopold compared implementing the proposed ban to the special inquiries used for asylum and refugee matters, which can take “months and months” for a single case. Applying that timeline to all entries, he said, would grind all travel into the U.S. to a halt.
The policy vagueness is compounded by Trump’s decision not to release a written plan or cost estimate. By contrast, Trump released an estimate for his plan to build a wall along the southern border — at $8 to $12 billion — and a two-page memo asserting Mexico will “contribute $_billion” for it.
So, with no plan in writing, few immigration experts were willing to project its exact cost when consulted by NBC News.
Several agreed, however, that the shift in enforcement would be so massive, the plan could easily require multiples of the current spending on immigration — doubling, tripling or quadrupling the current budget.
“You are looking at a five-fold increase” in spending, said Bernard Alter, the former U.S. consul general for Pakistan.
The former counterterror chief for U.S. Customs, Joseph King, estimated it could mean “hiring 100,000 agents” to screen all applicants.
Currently, the U.S. immigration system costs over $21.5 billion per year, counting spending by Homeland Security and the State Department.
Experts said actually implementing a global screening test for Muslim immigrants could swell that cost to $40 billion, $60 billion, or far more.
“It would be uncountable,” said Philip French, a 30-year veteran of the Foreign Service.