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Self-deportation is an approach to dealing with illegal migrants in the United States that involves the creation of legal structures which will make life in the U.S. so difficult as to encourage illegal migrants to voluntarily return to their home countries, rather than organized efforts of law enforcement to locate and deport them. It became associated with illegal immigration to the United States in the 1990s.


This term was used as early as 1984 in a People article about the film director Roman Polanski, which referred to his self-deporting.[1] The term gained its current association with illegal immigration in the 1990s, especially in California. In 1994, William Safire described its usage by California governor Pete Wilson's immigration strategy, exemplified by Proposition 187, which prevented illegal aliens from using a variety of state social services. Safire summarized the philosophy of the approach as holding that "the most cost-effective way to change behavior is to make life unbearable under present behavior."[2][3] The same year, Lalo Alcaraz and Esteban Zul launched a satirical campaign involving a character named "Daniel D. Portado" (a pun on deportado, Spanish for deported), who facetiously promoted self-deportation.[3][4]

The concept was popularized by Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies. The 2012 Republican Party platform included self-deportation as a response to illegal immigration, and also called for robust border enforcement, opposition to "any forms of amnesty", enforcement of the use of E-Verify by employers for employment eligibility verification, and other "humane procedures to encourage migrants to return home voluntarily".[5] In 2016 it was endorsed by Senator Ted Cruz and Governor Chris Christie, candidates for the Republican nomination in that year's presidential election.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Mano, D. Keith (5 March 1984). "Roman Polanski". People. Retrieved 25 June 2012. 
  2. ^ Safire, William (21 November 1994). "Essay; Self-Deportation?". The New York Times. Retrieved 25 June 2012. 
  3. ^ a b Mackey, Robert (1 February 2012). "The Deep Comic Roots of 'Self-Deportation'". The New York Times. Retrieved 25 June 2012. 
  4. ^ "News Flash: The Real Inventor of "Self-Deportation"". This American Life. 31 January 2012. Retrieved 25 June 2012. 
  5. ^ "New Republican Party Platform Calls for Mandatory E-Verify and Self-Deportation". The National Law Review. Greenberg Traurig LLP. 3 September 2012. Retrieved 23 September 2012. 
  6. ^ Strauss, Daniel (19 January 2016). "Chris Christie signals support for Ted Cruz's immigration strategy". Politico. Retrieved 20 January 2016.