2006 April 24 Monday
Illegal Aliens Would Self Deport If Immigration Laws Enforced

The Center for Immigration Studies has the goods once again. Driving out the illegal aliens from the United States would be a fairly cheap thing to accomplish since most could be induced to self-deport. Law enforcement would work wonders.

Proponents of mass legalization of the illegal alien population, whether through amnesty or expanded guestworker programs, often justify this radical step by suggesting that the only alternative – a broad campaign to remove illegal aliens by force – is unworkable. One study put the cost of such a deportation strategy at $206 billion over the next five years. But mass forced removal is not the only alternative to mass legalization. This analysis shows that a strategy of attrition through enforcement, in combination with a stronger border security effort such as the administration’s Secure Border Initiative (SBI), will significantly reduce the size of the illegal alien population at a reasonable cost. Reducing the size of the illegal population in turn will reduce the fiscal and social burdens that illegal immigration imposes on communities. In contrast, a policy of mass legalization is likely to increase these costs and prompt more illegal immigration.

Studies of the size and growth of the illegal population show that a borders-oriented strategy like SBI, which aims to improve border security and focuses mainly on removing criminal aliens, will achieve only limited results. If supplemented by attrition through enforcement, which encourages voluntary compliance with immigration laws rather than relying on forced removal, the illegal population could be nearly halved in five years. According to the government’s own cost estimates, such a strategy requires an additional investment of less than $2 billion, or $400 million per year – an increase of less than 1 percent of the President’s 2007 budget request for the Department of Homeland Security ($42.7 billion).

Elements of the attrition through enforcement strategy include: mandatory workplace verification of immigration status; measures to curb misuse of Social Security and IRS identification numbers; partnerships with state and local law enforcement officials; expanded entry-exit recording under US-VISIT; increased non-criminal removals; and state and local laws to discourage illegal settlement.

Pakistani illegals self-deported when US government agents started tracking them down after 9/11. Hispanic illegals would do the same thing if they figured they stood a good chance of eventually getting caught.

  • A strategy of attrition through enforcement could reduce the illegal population by as many as 1.5 million illegal aliens each year. Currently, only about 183,000 illegal aliens per year depart without the intervention of immigration officials, according to DHS statistics.
  • Voluntary compliance works faster and is cheaper than a borders-only approach to immigration law enforcement. For example, under the controversial NSEERS program launched after 9/11, DHS removed roughly 1,500 illegally-resident Pakistanis; over the same time period, in response to the registration requirements, about 15,000 illegal Pakistani immigrants left the country on their own.
  • Requiring employers to verify the status of workers could deny jobs to about three million illegal workers in three years, affecting at least one-third of the illegal population. This measure is a central feature of H.R. 4437, the enforcement measure passed by the House of Representatives in December, and is estimated to cost just over $400 million over five years.
  • The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) knows the name, address, and place of employment of millions of illegal aliens, and issues hundreds of millions of dollars in tax refunds and tax credits to illegal aliens. Changing the laws to provide for information-sharing would help boost immigration law enforcement at minimal cost.
  • US-VISIT is a critical tool in curbing illegal immigration. Screening must be expanded to include Mexicans and Canadians, and DHS must move forward to deploy an exit-recording system. These steps should be a pre-requisite to adding or expanding any visa program.
  • Less than 10 percent of ICE investigative resources are devoted to fraud, workplace violations, and overstayers. DHS could double non-criminal removals at a cost of roughly $120 million per year, balancing a "broken windows" approach with its current triage approach to interior enforcement.
  • Laws enacted by the state governments of Florida and New York to prevent illegal immigrants from obtaining driver’s licenses have induced more illegal aliens to leave than have federal enforcement efforts against certain illegal populations in those states, and have come at virtually no cost to the federal government.

This is all doable stuff.

Here are some of the key elements of an attrition strategy.

1) eliminating access to jobs through mandatory employer verification of Social Security numbers and immigration status;

2) ending misuse of Social Security and IRS identification numbers, which illegal immigrants use to secure jobs, bank accounts, drivers licenses, and other privileges, and improved information-sharing among key federal agencies;

3) increasing apprehensions and detention of illegal immigrants through partnerships between federal immigration authorities and state and local law enforcement agencies;

4) reducing visa overstays;

5) doubling the number of non-criminal, non-expedited removals;

6) passing state and local laws to discourage the settlement of illegal aliens and to make it more difficult for illegal aliens to conceal their status.

Immigration laws are enforceable. Claims to the contrary are motivated by the desire to get the public resigned to the increasing hordes of illegals in our midst. But there's no need for that feeling of resignation that the Open Borders crowd wants you to feel. The battle against illegal immigration is winnable.

Update: Enforcement of immigration laws has plummeted in a trend that began in the latter years of the Clinton Administration and continued under Bush. Edwin Rubinstein has the facts. Immigration enforcement plunged by a few orders of magnitude from 1997 to 2004 and today enforcement is truly token. Vigorous enforcement would drive out the illegals. Also see Michelle Malkin on the Bush Administration's failure to enforce immigration law.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2006 April 24 08:22 PM  Immigration Law Enforcement

John S Bolton said at April 24, 2006 11:25 PM:

Yes; except that there would have to be some enforcement on public subsidies available to illegals. The incentive of jobs to draw or hold illegal aliens here is easy to exaggerate; public subsidies are varied and munificent enough to compete with the sort of jobs that low-literate, low-fluent, undereducated illegals can get.

Mandy slaughter said at May 2, 2006 8:53 AM:

I just want to know where do I sign up to show my support to stop illegal immigration?

ann said at June 15, 2008 10:27 PM:

well then they should spend those millions of dollars building a concrete wall at the mexican border like the great wall of china. i would also like to sign up to fight against illegal immigration

ronb said at March 24, 2011 11:38 PM:

leticia olalia morales of 15501 pasadena ave #8 tustin ca 92708 submitted fake documents and paid 5000.00 dollars to obtain a US tourist visa. she is now applying for citizenship.

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