We've discovered something more effective than a wall and workplace raids at discouraging illegal immigrants from trying to enter the U.S. and encouraging those already here to leave -- a bad economy.
The raids of low skilled workplaces like slaughterhouses and selective local crackdowns on sites where the illegal visitors gather to seek work have helped, but there's nothing like a 6.1 percent unemployment rate and an economy that's shed hundreds of thousands of jobs to tell would-be economic refugees, "Stay home!"
The Census bureau said about 500,000 immigrants, legal and illegal, came here in 2007 down from 1.8 million the year before and half the annual average of 1 million a year going back to 2000. Fourteen states actually lost immigrant population. And it's a good bet those trends have accelerated in 2008, a worse year economically -- 600,000 jobs lost through August -- than 2007. Particularly hard hit has been the home building industry where low-skilled immigrants typically seek work.
The estimated population of 12 million illegal immigrants may actually decrease as they face increasing difficulty finding jobs and coming up with the paperwork to keep them.
There is another indicator that the flow of illegal immigrants has tapered off. Immigration, supposedly the hot button issue of campaign 2008, is rapidly receding in the rear view mirror as more pressing issues -- chaos in the credit markets, home foreclosures, gas prices -- intrude.
And therein lies a perverse economic indicator: When the politicians feel it's once again productive to get the populace steamed up about the menace of illegal immigrant workers, we'll know the good times are back.
Source: Scripps Howard News