- Our best estimate is that the illegal immigrant population has declined by 11 percent through May 2008 after hitting a peak in August 2007.The bolded finding is especially remarkable. Consider INS estimates of illegal alien removals during Operation Wetback in 1954:
- The implied decline in the illegal population is 1.3 million since last summer, from 12.5 million to 11.2 million today.
- The estimated decline of the illegal population is at least seven times larger than the number of illegal aliens removed by the government in the last 10 months, so most of the decline is due to illegal immigrants leaving the country on their own.
- One indication that stepped-up enforcement is responsible for the decline is that only the illegal immigrant population seems to be affected; the legal immigrant population continues to grow.
- Another indication enforcement is causing the decline is that the illegal immigrant population began falling before there was a significant rise in their unemployment rate.
- The importance of enforcement is also suggested by the fact that the current decline is already significantly larger than the decline during the last recession, and
officially the country has not yet entered a recession.
- While the decline began before unemployment rose, the evidence indicates that unemployment has increased among illegal immigrants, so the economic slow-down is likely to be at least partly responsible for the decline in the number of illegal immigrants.
- There is good evidence that the illegal population grew last summer while Congress was considering legalizing illegal immigrants. When that legislation failed to pass, the illegal population began to fall almost immediately.
- If the decline were sustained, it would reduce the illegal population by one-half in the next five years.
It is difficult to estimate the number of illegal aliens forced to leave by the operation. The INS claimed as many as 1,300,000, though the number officially apprehended did not come anywhere near this total. The INS estimate rested on the claim that most aliens, fearing apprehension by the government, had voluntarily repatriated themselves before and during the operation. The San Antonio district, which included all of Texas outside of El Paso and the Trans-Pecos, had officially apprehended slightly more than 80,000 aliens, and local INS officials claimed that an additional 500,000 to 700,000 had fled to Mexico before the campaign began.Take the low-end figure from the San Antonio district and we get 7.25 aliens leaving of their own volition for each forcibly deported.
The false cries over the logistical costs of 'mass deportations' are hollow. Oklahoma and Arizona, among several others, have enacted enforcement measures directed primarily at businesses and at the state level. This has led to hundreds of illegal immigrants leaving the state on a daily basis. Make it more difficult to live illegally in the US and people are less likely to do so.