By INVESTOR’S BUSINESS DAILY | Posted Friday, August 01, 2008 4:20 PM PT
Immigration: A new study showing fewer illegal aliens bolsters the case for putting enforcement first. What we’re seeing is the necessary first stage of reform.
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Americans have grown so used to hearing about the rising tide of illegal immigration that they may simply not believe the latest news on the subject — that the number of illegals in the U.S. appears to have fallen, and by quite a lot.
That’s the conclusion of a study released last week by the Center for Immigration Studies, which estimated that 1.3 million illegal immigrants have left this country since Congress gave up on a “comprehensive” reform bill a year ago. Many were deported, but the CIS says most went back home on their own.
The CIS has long pushed for tougher immigration law, and its study will be criticized by those who don’t share the think tank’s pro-enforcement views. But the CIS isn’t alone in noticing the downturn. The Pew Hispanic Center also sees evidence of an outflow, though it has not tried to gauge its size. Observers close to the border also see a shift in the tide.
A Tucson, Ariz., clergyman who delivers water to migrants making the trek across the desert told the Associated Press, “Without doubt, people have left, and without question fewer people are coming.”
As to the question of why so many people are leaving, the CIS makes the case that enforcement, not the economic downturn, triggered the trend. The center’s research director, Steve Camarota, explains: “The drop-off in illegal immigration seems to occur (in the data) before there is a run-up in their unemployment rate.”
If the CIS’ conclusions hold up, they will help vindicate the Bush administration’s turn to an enforcement-first policy, both on the border and at workplaces. This wasn’t the way the president was originally headed, but he and Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff deserve credit for taking their new mission seriously once they accepted it.
As for the current presidential contenders, the new data should help clarify the difference between John McCain, who has come around to backing enforcement first, and Barack Obama, who still opposes it.
But even Obama might soon realize that enforcement doesn’t get in the way of the comprehensive reform that he (like McCain) wants to see.
As we’ve said before, successful enforcement makes reform more achievable. It restores a sense of order, quiets hysteria on both sides and gives Americans hope that the problem can finally be solved.