National Immigration Forum

Practical Solutions for Immigrants and America

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Down to zero by 2067!

February 25, 2009 - Posted by Douglas Rivlin

USA Today reports that the Department of Homeland Security now estimates that there are only 11.6 million undocumented immigrants in the United States, that’s down from an estimated 11.8 million a year ago.  At that rate, 200,000 fewer undocumented immigrants fewer per year, by 2067 we won’t have any immigrants in the country illegally – a mere 58 years from now! 


That assumes no increase in unauthorized immigration in the meantime, which for many years was estimated at a net increase of 500,000 people annually. 


So is it enforcement that has led to the decrease in the population of immigrants here illegally?  According to the article, the Center for Immigration Studies, an advocacy group opposed to legal and illegal immigration, thinks so.  A spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security, which issued the report on which the USA Today article is based also thinks so.


But a much more plausible explanation is “it’s the economy, stupid.” 


The overall number of immigrants and the level of illegal immigration are leading economic indicators.  When the economy is doing well and jobs are plentiful, demand for immigration goes up.  When the demand for immigration is more plentiful than the supply of visas – as has been the case in America for decades – the population of undocumented immigrants rises.


According to the report, this is the first year that the estimated population of undocumented immigrants has declined this century.  Meanwhile, the level of spending on enforcement has gone up by astronomical sums each year.  Also today, the government announced that the overall size of the U.S. economy shrunk for the last four quarters, economic contraction not witnesses since 1991.  Hmmm.


So, it’s the economy, stupid.  And if we want to maintain this level of decline in the number of undocumented immigrants, we have to maintain this level of decline in the U.S. economy…for the next 58 years.  Now that’s really stupid.


Rather than wait until 2067 to eliminate the population of undocumented immigrants in the U.S., we could massively step up deportations.  That isn’t going to happen, despite the very few vocal – bordering on hysterical – people who would actually want to see that happen.


A much better and more likely solution is to get those here illegally into the legal system, make sure they have rights, are paying their full boat of taxes, and that their employers are playing by enforceable rules that are being enforced.  Combine that with an immigration system that lets people come with a visa, rather than a smuggler, within reasonable limits and we can put our immigration system on a legal footing and our economy on a much more stable footing. 


Or we could hope for a dire economic recession that lasts until 2067. 

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