Attrition Through Enforcement:
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.
The purpose of this analysis is to identify both the likely cost to the federal government and the expected effect in terms reducing the size of the illegal alien population, of re-orienting the nation’s immigration law enforcement strategy from one that relies primarily on border control and removing criminal aliens to one that also aims to increase the probability that illegal aliens will return home of their own accord. Among the findings:
In November 2005 Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff presented the Bush Administration plan to address the nation’s immigration crisis. Known as the Secure Border Initiative (SBI), the plan is billed as a comprehensive solution that will "secure America’s borders and reduce illegal migration" within five years.1 The cost of SBI was projected to be $2.5 billion.2
While SBI addresses a number of grave border security weaknesses, such as Border Patrol staffing levels, detention capacity, and physical infrastructure, and is certain to reduce the number of new illegal arrivals, it will have no noticeable effect for communities across the country that already are hosting illegal populations. The SBI makes almost no effort to reduce the size of the existing illegal alien population; nor does it address the problem of visa overstayers, who make up perhaps as much as 40 percent of the illegal immigrant flow.
Ongoing research by leading immigration scholars strongly suggests that when border control is the sole focus of immigration enforcement policy, illegal immigrants tend to stay put, rather than risk re-entry. According to Princeton researcher Douglas S. Massey, "Enforcement has driven up the cost of crossing the border illegally, but that has had the unintended consequence of encouraging illegal immigrants to stay longer in the United States to recoup the cost of entry. The result is that illegal immigrants are less likely to return to their home country, causing an increase in the number of illegal immigrants remaining in the United States."3 If the goal of immigration policy is to relieve the fiscal and social burden of illegal immigration and enhance homeland security without spurring more illegal immigration, then some effort must be made to reduce the existing population of illegal immigrants as well as to slow the flow of new illegal arrivals.
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff has said it is simply "not practical" to try to forcibly remove the illegal population: "The cost of identifying all of those people and sending them back would be stupendous. It would be billions and billions of dollars."4 The administration, along with some supporters in Congress, maintains that the only alternative is to legalize the resident illegal alien population through a massive new guestworker plan.
Cost would certainly be a factor in any new guestworker or amnesty program, as well. According to a 2004 report by Center for Immigration Studies Director of Research Steven Camarota, the illegally-resident population produces a net fiscal drain of about $10 billion (fiscal costs minus taxes paid). After an amnesty, that cost rises to nearly $29 billion, as the amnesty beneficiaries become eligible for more services.5 In addition, based on past experience, any new amnesty is likely to result in large numbers of ineligible individuals receiving status, including terrorists, and will spawn new illegal immigration.6
Policies for Attrition
Enforcement: Faster and Cheaper Table 1 illustrates the significantly better results that can be achieved by pursuing attrition in addition to a border control strategy such as SBI. With an attrition strategy, the United States could reduce the illegal population from its current 11.5 million to 5.6 million over a period of five years, a 51 percent reduction. SBI alone will produce only modest results – reducing the illegal population to only 10.3 million illegal aliens after five years, a 10 percent reduction.
A note of caution –this exercise is meant simply to illustrate the relative importance of various areas of focus for immigration law enforcement and how that plays out over time. While Table 1 relies on the most up-to-date and specific statistics available from government sources and independent research, because the illegal population is by definition difficult to count, these figures should be considered no more than educated guesses. Some of the data is several years old. In the absence of evidence to the contrary, it is assumed that previous trends of illegal migration and return migration persist today. It is possible that forthcoming statistics from the Department of Homeland Security based on more recent data will show a slightly different outcome.
This analysis relies on DHS estimates reporting the past levels of the annual out-flow of illegal aliens, which were broken down according to the reason for departure. In addition, it uses data from a new report by Jeffrey Passell, of the Pew Hispanic Center, which extracts information on the illegal alien population from Census data.7 In addition the findings of Princeton University’s Mexican Migration Project (MMP) were considered, a major on-going study of migration patterns to and from Mexico based on annual surveys of Mexican migrants and villagers.8
The Passell study reports that a large portion of illegal aliens are recent arrivals. According to Passell, two-thirds of the illegal population (7.3 million people) have been here 10 years or less (see Figure 1). These individuals presumably would be the most responsive to increased immigration enforcement within the United States. Only 16 percent of the population has been here more than 15 years.
The MMP has documented a significant churn in the flow of illegal Mexican migrants; in other words, a large percentage of illegal migrants enter with the intent to work illegally for a temporary period before returning to Mexico. However, the probability of return has become less in recent years, dropping from about 45 percent in the mid-1980s to about 25 to 33 percent today.9
MMP researchers posit that this decline in the probability of return is due to the increasing difficulty of successful re-entry as border control efforts have intensified in recent years. It could also be due to the substantial decline in interior enforcement and increasing accommodation of illegal Mexicans in the United States. Whatever the reason, the study suggests strongly that illegal migrants do change behavior in response to changes in U.S. policies.Another recent study confirms the responsiveness of illegal Mexican migration to U.S. enforcement trends. Using MMP data, University of Pennsylvania researcher Aldo Colussi created a model of illegal Mexican migrant behavior in response to two kinds of policies: more intense border-targeted enforcement and an increase in penalties imposed on employers. Colussi found that, over five years, a policy such as tighter controls on employers could cause a 40 percent drop in the existing population, while a policy of stricter border enforcement caused no perceptible drop in the existing illegal population.10
Table 2 is a comparison of the cost of a borders-only enforcement approach (the President’s SBI) with the cost of a strategy of enforcement through attrition. These estimates are based on the 2006 appropriations for the Department of Homeland Security, estimates produced by the Congressional Budget Office for bills encompassing these measures, GAO reports, internal audits, and other public information.
Contrary to studies published by groups favoring amnesty, a significant reduction in the size of the illegal population can be accomplished at a cost far less than the "billions and billions of dollars" mentioned by Mr. Chertoff. At a cost of less than $2 billion, a strategy of attrition through enforcement is as affordable as the SBI, and will deliver greater reductions in the illegal alien population.
Policies Details and Costs III. Law Enforcement Partnerships: Many Hands Make Lighter Work Rationale. Despite the recent growth in funding for the Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), its enforcement arm, the agency remains hopelessly out-manned, with fewer than 10,000 immigration enforcement agents and investigators dedicated to locating and apprehending some of the more than 11 million illegal aliens residing throughout the country. A large share of these agents perform support tasks such as processing and transporting detainees, and so are not actively involved in the identification and capture of illegal aliens. It would take a huge infusion of funding and personnel for ICE to single-handedly manage this workload effectively so as to bring about a noticeable reduction in the size of the illegal alien population. The law does not anticipate or require that the job be done single-handedly by ICE. Hundreds of thousands of police officers, sheriffs, and state troopers across the country regularly encounter illegal aliens in the course of their daily routine, and these officers also have the authority to arrest illegal aliens. After taking illegal aliens into custody, police officers are to inform federal immigration authorities and turn over the alien for further processing, if appropriate.40 In some cases, DHS will respond and take custody of aliens. Yet many police departments complain that DHS often refuses, citing higher priorities. Typical is this reaction: "We’re not driving hours inland to pick up illegal aliens when we’re trying to stop terrorists and weapons of mass destruction," said Rich Nemitz, the agent in charge of the Port Huron (Mich.) Border Patrol Station, which was asked to take custody of several illegal aliens identified by the Saginaw police force.41 Further complicating matters, some jurisdictions have so-called "sanctuary" policies in place, which forbid police officers from questioning individuals about their immigration status. Other jurisdictions cite concerns that any police involvement with federal immigration authorities will sow fear of authorities in immigrant communities. At the national level, ICE has merely tolerated rather than encouraged involvement from state and local law enforcement, and the enforcement statistics reflect this ambivalence, with only a very small fraction of the resident illegal population apprehended and removed each year (fewer than 100,000 removals of longer-term illegal residents, or about 1 percent of the total illegal population in 2004).42 ICE could become far more productive in terms of apprehensions and removals if it more actively cultivated partnerships with those state and local law enforcement departments that wish to participate in immigration law enforcement. These partnerships have proved to be mutually beneficial; in addition to helping ICE, they also give local police another law enforcement tool to use in addressing local criminal problems, such as gangs and drugs. One approach is for state or local law enforcement jurisdictions to enter what is known as a 287(g) agreement, after the relevant section of the Immigration and Nationality Act, with ICE. Under this agreement, officers receive special immigration law enforcement training and are then in effect deputized to enforce immigration law beyond the initial arrest authority. Mark Dubina, supervisor of the Florida program, told Congress: "this program acts as a force multiplier by allowing authorized local and state agents to screen incoming complaints and identify persons and leads worthy of follow-up investigation, without initially contacting the regional ICE office with every lead or complaint."43 At the same hearing, the chief of Alabama’s Department of Public Safety declared that "the 287(g) program is a valuable tool that helps Alabama’s troopers do a better job protecting and serving our state and nation."44 Three states (Florida, Alabama, and Arizona) and three localities (Los Angeles and San Bernadino counties and the city of Costa Mesa in California) have signed agreements so far. The Florida program resulted in more than 165 immigration arrests by 35 ICE-trained Florida police officers in the first year.45 Originally focused exclusively on counter-terrorism, it has since been renewed and expanded in scope, to cover domestic security in general. The Alabama program, which was not limited to national security cases, resulted in nearly 200 immigration arrests over a two-year period. Beyond arresting illegal aliens they happen to encounter in the regular course of business, some jurisdictions are adding their state law enforcement resources to support federal border patrol efforts. In response to increasing numbers of illegal immigrants and increasing violence in the border region, law enforcement officers in Texas formed the Texas Border Sheriffs Coalition and convinced Governor Rick Perry to fund Operation Linebacker. This program deploys scores of new sheriffs’ deputies to the border region to assist in patrolling and to serve as a second line of defense to the border patrol efforts. The project received $6 million in state funding, which likely will be supplemented with federal funding in the future. While no arrest figures are yet available, Operation Linebacker in Texas is expected to result in a significantly reduced general crime rate; one town covered by the pilot experienced a 40 percent drop in the crime rate.46 The Texas sheriffs coalition is now discussing an expansion of the operation with sheriff’s from all 24 southwest border counties, from California to Texas. Such partnerships need not be limited to federal-state or federal-local relationships. In October, 2005 U.S. army soldiers were sent on a training mission to support border patrol operations in New Mexico, known as Joint Task Force North. Part of their assignment was to station soldiers’ military vehicles along a major highway and notify the border patrol upon spotting illegal aliens. Nearly 2,000 illegal crossers were apprehended in one month. The soldiers, who were deployed from a regiment in Fort Lewis, Washington, received useful desert and mountain training, while the border patrol was able to achieve a 60 percent increase in apprehensions in that sector.47 Cost. The DHS appropriation for FY 2006 already includes $5 million for training of state and local officers to enforce immigration laws. In its conference report accompanying the bill, the House Appropriations Committee expressed strong support for the program and directed DHS to be "more proactive in encouraging state and local governments to participate."48 H.R. 4437 authorizes payments of up to $100 million annually to counties within 25 miles of the southern U.S. border for the costs of detaining and transporting illegal aliens. Presumably some of the cost of programs such as Operation Linebacker, which is budgeted at $35 million, could be covered under this legislation, or under other existing state and local law enforcement terrorism prevention grant programs already approved. The bill also directs DHS to expand the National Crime Information Center database. According to CBO cost estimates, the total annual cost of an expanded state and local law enforcement role in reducing the size of the resident illegal alien population would be $120 million: $100 million for grants to states for transporting and detaining illegal aliens, and $20 million for training and the NCIC database expansion.49 Benefit. Supporting the efforts of state and local law enforcement to participate in immigration law enforcement is a powerful way to augment the immigration enforcement presence nationwide without having to open new ICE offices and hire new ICE agents. Together with the planned expansion of prosecutorial resources and detention space under the Secure Border Initiative, the expansion of the 287(g) program and other local initiatives is virtually certain to increase the number of illegal alien removals. The Sensenbrenner bill would advance this strategy by clarifying state and local officers’ authority to help enforce immigration laws, requiring DHS to provide training and funding opportunities to state and local agencies, and directing DHS to place the names of immigration offenders in the National Crime Information Center database, so that officers on the beat can more easily and accurately identify illegal aliens. This component of the attrition through enforcement approach is the most expensive of those presented in this analysis (see Table 2). The potential number of removals that would be directly attributable to state and local authorities is likely to be small compared with other programs such as Basic Pilot. However, this activity will contribute to the apprehension of many criminal aliens, who might not otherwise be found by federal immigration authorities. Having help in dealing with criminal aliens would make it easier for ICE to better balance its enforcement priorities and devote more attention to non-criminal interior enforcement against other immigration law violators, including alien smugglers, illegal workers, overstayers, and perpetrators of immigration fraud. IV. Knowing Who’s Coming and Going: Exit Recording with US-VISIT Rationale. Workplace enforcement, document control, and state and local law enforcement participation are all reactive methods of immigration law enforcement; they serve as check-points to identify or deal with illegal immigrants who have been here for some time. A more anticipatory method of enforcement, where, instead of waiting for illegal immigrants to apply for a job, file a tax return, or be stopped for speeding, DHS will have the ability to identify illegal immigrant overstayers as soon as they fall out of status, is now under development. This system is encompassed under US-VISIT, the new biometric screening system for foreign visitors, which DHS began implementing in 2004. Mandated by a Congress frustrated with the inability of INS to keep track of the number of visa overstayers, it also includes SEVIS, another new system set up to electronically track students and exchange visitors. The exit recording capability is one component of US-VISIT, a multi-layered border security system based on biometrics that now records the entry of foreign visitors, authenticates their identity, and screens them against security databases. It has been fully implemented at air and sea ports, but in only a very limited way at land ports. If the program is allowed to proceed as planned, the exit recording system will eventually require visitors to "check out" as they leave. By matching the recorded entries against the exits, DHS would be able to determine which visitors have overstayed their visas and become illegal aliens. In addition to providing ICE with enforcement leads as soon as an alien overstays, it is expected that the act of recording entries and exits, together with increased enforcement activity and the imposition of penalties for visa violations, will help dampen the temptation to overstay. US-VISIT is still a work in progress, with fewer than one-fourth of foreign visitors now screened and enrolled upon entry, and far fewer on exit (DHS is currently relying on a passenger manifest-based system and pilot exit programs in a few airports to record exits).50 Mexicans and Canadians are exempt from enrollment, leaving a significant gap in the screening activity. This policy is partly due to infrastructure limitations and partly due to the Bush administration’s deference to constituencies who benefit from minimal screening policies, such as the travel industry, the immigration bar, and businesses dependent on cross-border trade. Funding for more port inspectors and infrastructure improvements, such as port re-design, would make it much easier to expand the number of visitors who are covered under US-VISIT, enhancing security, deterring illegal immigration, and facilitating legitimate travel and commerce. Beyond its enforcement value, a fully-functioning exit recording system must be a prerequisite for adding new visa programs or expanding existing ones. Currently the United States is operating its massive temporary visitor programs almost blindly, with little understanding of which visitors overstay, from which countries, or in which visa categories. The information generated by US-VISIT and SEVIS will be critical to future policy decisions on the Visa Waiver Program, guestworker programs, and student and exchange visitor programs. Cost. Congress appropriated a total of $340 million for US-VISIT in FY 2006, and the President has asked for $400 million in 2007. It is impossible to determine how much of this funding will be devoted to developing the exit recording component of US-VISIT, as DHS has not yet announced how and when it will implement this requirement. Beyond the base cost of US-VISIT, which is already covered under the DHS budget, over the five years another $160 million would be needed to add 200 more new Customs and Border Protection port-of-entry inspectors per year, and another $190 million for infrastructure improvements at the largest ports of entry, for a total of $350 million over five years.51 Benefit. The establishment of a more reliable and complete entry-exit recording system will bring a variety of benefits for immigration law enforcement and policy management. First, the system already generates actionable leads for ICE agents that result in apprehensions and removals. In June 2003, ICE created the Compliance Enforcement Unit (CEU) to track down overstayers and other aliens who violate the terms of their admission. CEU analysts cull through hundreds of thousands of leads, many of which are generated automatically from tracking databases, and refer confirmed and actionable cases to field agents to pursue. Over the time period January 2004 to January 2005, the CEU processed more than 300,000 leads from four different sources,52 resulting in a total of 671 apprehensions. These compliance enforcement investigations were the second largest category of ICE immigration investigations completed that year, topped only by criminal alien investigations.53 The CEU is critical to any effort to reduce the population of resident illegal aliens, and an increase in staffing this unit and improving the data sources, particularly through mandatory exit recording, would likely produce a significant increase in overall apprehensions. Despite the fact that it is brand-new, the unit appears to be significantly more productive than other ICE Investigations units. The aforementioned 671 apprehensions attributable to CEU in calendar year 2004 were accomplished by 51 full-time equivalent (FTE) employees. Their work was hampered by several factors, including an only partially-operational US-VISIT and incomplete data entry.54 By way of contrast, in FY 2004, the 64 FTE special agents of the ICE Worksite Enforcement Unit completed only 3,064 cases resulting in only 445 arrests, or about half the arrest per employee rate of the CEU. In addition to producing actionable leads for ICE agents, US-VISIT will also generate reliable quantitative and descriptive information on the overstay population. This data will guide the State Department and DHS in the adjudication of visas and supplement the array of assumptions, profiling, validation studies, and guesswork now used by consular officers and inspectors at the point of entry to determine who qualifies for a visa. The information will also enable DHS and the State Department to implement a more objective and transparent process to determine which countries are eligible for the Visa Waiver Program. This program allows citizens of certain countries to enter the United States for short stays without a visa, and a low overstay rate is one of the criteria for participation. Lacking good data on overstays, the State Department and DHS have used visa refusal rates as a proxy. Because they reflect the consular officer’s predictions of future behavior, rather than actual behavior, and can be subject to manipulation or political pressure, refusal rates are a much more subjective and less dependable measure of eligibility. Participation in the program is a coveted privilege and a number of important allies, including Poland and Korea, have expressed great disgruntlement with the current process, further complicating bilateral relations. At the same time, the program is risky; for instance, a number of terrorists have entered using passports from Visa Waiver-approved countries. More reliable data will make it easier for the State Department and DHS to defend its policies both here and abroad. V. Broken Windows: Doubling Non-Criminal Removals Rationale. Faced with an overwhelming workload and a perceptible ambivalence in its leadership about the problem of illegal immigration, DHS has adopted a triage strategy of immigration law enforcement, with priority given to locating and removing criminal aliens, such as sexual predators and people who have participated in genocide, along with those caught working illegally in sensitive locations such as airports and tall buildings. Meanwhile, resources for other types of interior enforcement have dried up. A recent GAO report found that only a very small share of ICE investigative hours are devoted to cases not involving criminal aliens, alien smuggling, or absconders. While 26 percent of the investigative time in 2004 went to drug cases and 17 percent to financial cases, only five percent of the investigative hours were devoted to identity and benefit fraud, which is acknowledged to be a pervasive problem. Workplace enforcement did not even make the chart, representing less than two percent of the investigative hours.55 To bring about a noticeable reduction in the size of the illegal population and deter future illegal immigration, DHS will have to move beyond the triage approach and embrace a parallel strategy of routine immigration law enforcement that gives more attention to enforcement at the workplace, visa overstays, and especially fraud in the benefits application process. The strategy of attrition though enforcement envisions a doubling of non-criminal removals, both to decrease the size of the illegal alien population directly and to create a climate of enforcement that encourages voluntary compliance as the likelihood of detection increases. A "broken windows"-style approach is consistent with, even essential to, the DHS primary mission of keeping the nation safe from terrorists. We now know that most terrorists have relied on immigration fraud and weak interior enforcement to remain in this country to carry out attacks.56 Consistent, everyday enforcement of routine immigration law infractions will nab criminals and terrorists, in addition to helping shrink the population of illegal aliens. To this end, DHS has taken steps to improve fraud detection, and equally important, ensure that applicants who resort to fraud are removed, rather than merely denied legal status only to slip back into the illegal population. In a remarkable instance of inter-bureau cooperation, in 2004 the Office of Fraud Detection and National Security was created within USCIS, the immigration benefits arm of DHS, in partnership with ICE, the enforcement arm. This office uses technology-enhanced methods to identify fraud and national security risks in the immigration benefits application stream before the applications are adjudicated. What makes this new approach truly innovative is that while some of the confirmed fraud cases are referred to ICE for criminal prosecution, now even more cases are handled administratively – that is, the applicant is denied the benefit and placed directly in removal proceedings– which is a much less cumbersome and less costly process than prosecution. Detailed statistics on the performance of this unit are not yet available, but DHS reported to Congress that over the time period spanning October 1, 2004 to approximately August of 2005, the FDNS units, staffed with 154 employees, generated more than 1,500 cases, most of which were ultimately pursued administratively. The agency has been authorized to double the size of the staff in the next year.57 Benefit. Boosting resources to bring about a doubling of non-criminal removals would bring about a 40 percent increase in total interior apprehensions, for an additional 73,000 removals per year. Cost. A doubling of non-criminal removals would cost approximately $595 million in additional interior enforcement spending over five years, based on the following calculation: The DHS budget provides ICE with an additional $37.5 million over the next two years for 52 teams tasked with hunting down immigrant absconders (those who have ignored removal orders). These teams are expected to arrest between 40,000 to 50,000 illegal aliens annually. At 865 apprehensions per team, that works out to a per/apprehension cost of $834. At that rate, the total cost for staff to complete an additional 73,000 non-criminal apprehensions would be just under $61 million per year. Congress has already provided for additional detention funds ($1 billion in the 2006), but an additional $58 million is needed for administrative and criminal proceedings and related costs. VI. Zero Tolerance: State and Local Laws Discouraging Illegal Settlement Rationale. Frustrated with the federal government’s failure to make progress in reducing illegal immigration, and under pressure from impatient voters, many state and local jurisdictions are taking matters into their own hands by enacting laws and ordinances to discourage illegal settlement and by taking advantage of federal services, such as the database used for Basic Pilot, to verify immigration status. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, lawmakers in 42 states are considering 380 bills related to immigration; 70 of these bills deal with employment.58 Many of these measures, such as laws to restrict access to driver’s licenses, are intended primarily to enhance security and minimize identity fraud; nevertheless they have provided a powerful incentive for illegal immigrants to voluntarily return home. In other cases, legislatures have considered more direct approaches, such as mandatory work authorization verification. Because these laws can have such a positive effect on compliance, and require little in the way or federal resources, they must be more actively supported by federal immigration authorities. Cost. The cost of encouraging state and local immigration initiatives is minimal, and limited to outreach efforts to encourage states and localities to use existing programs such as SAVE (used primarily by state benefits offices to verify eligibility) and Basic Pilot. States and employers pay transaction fees for these services. The number of users could be increased by undertaking a campaign to explain the advantages. Benefits. Evidence of the impact of such policies can be found in New York City, where the noticeable decline in the size of the illegal Irish population is attributed in part to a recent effort to deny driver’s licenses to illegal aliens. The Irish government estimates that about 14,000 Irish out of an estimated population of at least 20,000 have returned home from the United States since 2001, of whom a large percentage are presumed to have been living here illegally. By way of contrast, in 2005 DHS deported only 43 Irish nationals.59 While the strong Irish economy and the US-VISIT screening at airports are also playing a role in this exodus, the inability to obtain a license, which limits job opportunities and other aspects of a normal daily life, is clearly an effective deterrent. The state of Florida has experienced a net outflow of illegally-resident Argentines, according to a recent report in the Miami Herald. Former illegal aliens cited their inability to get a driver’s license and travel, in addition to the strong economy in Argentina, as factors in their decision to return home. Records from the international airport in Buenos Aires show that in the last three years, 35,000 more Argentines arrived from Miami than returned, and the Argentine consulate noted that the number of citizens seeking a certificate of residence to return home had quadrupled over the same time period.60 In comparison, DHS has apprehended only 300-600 Argentine illegal aliens per year in the entire United States in each of the last three years. Different states have tried different tactics, depending on local issues and conditions. The governors of Texas and Arizona have focused on the border, and authorized initiatives to support the federal border patrol with National Guard troops, soldiers-in-training, and local sheriffs.61 Police Chief Garrett Chamberlain of New Ipswich, New Hampshire claims to have created an illegal-free zone in his small town by invoking the state law against trespassing. His approach ultimately was rebuked by a state judge, but nevertheless, the publicity about his approach may be accomplishing the same deterrent effect.62 The Selectboard in the town of Milford, Mass., a town of about 27,000 residents located in the suburbs of Boston, which has experienced an influx of illegal Brazilian immigrants in the last several years, has passed a series of ordinances openly aimed at making life more difficult for this population. Measures include an anti-scavenger law (forbidding foraging through trash left on the street for pick-up), a prohibition against certain types of check-cashing establishments, rental property licensing, occupancy regulations, permits for use of local parks, and a requirement that restaurants and bars comply with federal hiring regulations and maintain up-to-date health reports on all employees (in response to a local tuberculosis outbreak attributed to illegal aliens). Some of the quality of life disturbances attributed to illegal aliens perhaps could be addressed more appropriately through community outreach efforts. However, in general, state and local officials should be encouraged to use their lawmaking authority to promote legal hiring practices, protect all members of the community from all forms of criminal activity, and promote a climate of respect for federal and local laws. In addition, state governments should refrain from pursuing policies and providing benefits that impede or contradict federal immigration laws, such as sanctuary laws that prevent police officers from inquiring about an alien’s legal status, in-state tuition at colleges and universities, subsidized day labor sites, public housing, and preferential-rate mortgages.
Conclusion This analysis demonstrates that it is not only possible, but would be quite practical to undertake a strategy of attrition through enforcement in order to shrink the size of the illegal alien population and relieve the burden illegal immigration imposes on American communities. This strategy, when combined with conventional immigration law enforcement and tighter security at the borders, could reduce the number of illegal aliens by half over a period of five years. Contrary to some reports, and according to the government’s own cost estimates, this strategy is a bargain, costing less than $2 billion over five years. It is less expensive and less radical than either a massive amnesty/guestworker program, or a massive apprehension and removal operation. The strategy of attrition through enforcement relies on tried and true immigration law enforcement techniques that discourage illegal settlement and increase the probability that illegal aliens will return of their own accord. Lawmakers must not be intimidated by the sheer size of the illegal population. Both academic research and recent experience demonstrate that migrants respond to incentives and deterrents, and that a subtle increase in the "heat" on illegal aliens can be enough to dramatically reduce the scale of the problem within just a few years. The federal government already has within its grasp the ability and the tools to control the level of illegal immigration, and its success in doing so is a direct result of the effort it has made. A modest investment of resources to step up this effort will pay large dividends for the future.
1 Fact Sheet: Secure Border
Initiative, Department of Homeland Security, at <
* Courtesy of the Center for Immigration Studies
Mark Krikorian, Executive Director
1522 K Street N.W., Suite 820
Washington, DC 20005
See original at < http://www.cis.org/articles/2006/back406.html >.