Open-borders advocates often argue that changes in the immigration law, and/or added enforcement, cannot change the size of the legal and illegal alien populations. No mere governmental activity can resist the human tide of would-be migrants, is their view. They say, in effect, "Why try?"
The totally neutral U.S. Census Bureau offers a stunning rebuttal of that position in its latest report on the shrinking population of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI). These islands, north of Guam in the western Pacific, are the newest additions to the U.S. territorial family, having been conquered by the U.S. late in World War II.
As background, Congress in a more-than-usual fit of thoughtlessness, signed a covenant with the island politicians in the mid-1970s which, among other things, gave the locals control of their own immigration system – something denied (fortunately) to local governments in Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. (For more on the exploitative migration policies of the CNMI, see an earlier blog.)
The indigenous CNMI leaders, mostly men of the Chamorro ethnic group, proceeded to let in floods of voteless, powerless, and exploited, mostly female, guestworkers from the Philippines and China, and the total population of the islands soared eight-fold, from 8,290 in1958 to 69,221 in 2000. It was not till the Mainland media (notably the New York Times, the Washington Post, and ABC TV) exposed the massive scandals of the CNMI's garment sweatshops and the flourishing sex tourism there that Congress in 2008 finally restored the immigration powers to the federal government.
But even before 2008 other federal actions dampening immigration, such as the change in the trade laws that allowed Mainland Chinese sweatshops to ship clothes directly to the U.S., came into play along with the new immigration law, all forcing some of the guestworkers to leave.
The result: a remarkable drop in the total population of the islands, from 69,221 in 2000 to 53,883 in 2010. That was a reduction by a thumping 22.2 percent. While the detailed statistics on the populations of aliens and of citizens have not yet been released, I am quite sure that most of the decline will be among the non-citizens.
Meanwhile, closer to home, a pro-migration think tank, the Public Policy Institute of California has published a report on the 2007 law in Arizona mandating the use of the E-Verify program, saying it "estimates that Arizona's population of unauthorized immigrants of working age fell by about 17 percent, or about 92,000 people, from 2008 to 2009 as a result of the law."
So, both in the tropical lushness of the Marianas, and the harsh deserts of Arizona, immigration laws matter – their enforcement can cause ineligible aliens to depart.