Drama vs. Demographics in the S.744 Debate

By David North on June 27, 2013

I have been both fascinated with, and appalled by, the over-emphasis on border security in the current debates about the legalization of some 11 million illegal aliens.

It is as if the minds of Congress have slipped into reverse historical gear, and are dealing with the high drama of the wars between the U.S. Cavalry and the Indians on the western frontier during the 1800s.

Instead of voting for more horses and for more men for the U.S. Army, as it once did, Capitol Hill now votes for more drones and more Border Patrol Agents (not that the latter are not needed), thus focusing hard on the drama of the border. (In the process they all but ignore the 40 percent of the illegal alien population made up of visa overstayers.)

Further, everyone is trying to figure out the best way to measure the number of illicit arrivals across the Rio Grande and the rest of the border, and whether that flow is low enough to warrant legalizing millions of resident illegal aliens.

Yes, more fences (if they were to be really funded) and more agents would be helpful. Yes, it would be nice to know how often the border is violated. But the real way to evaluate the problems caused by illegal immigration is quite different, and much easier to measure than the flows into the United States from Mexico.

It is simple, and simply overlooked.

That is the size of the illegal alien population in the United States, and the question of whether it is growing, stable, or declining. If it is more or less stable, or growing, we have, in my mind, no reason to run an amnesty that will only make matters worse.

Meanwhile, the Office of Immigration Statistics (in DHS) has been estimating the size of the illegal population for years, as can be seen here.

If and when that population is declining, and has been doing so steadily and substantially for several years, then we might consider legalizing the remaining remnants of the illegal population — but not before.

Yes, the illicit traffic over the border is a problem, but a more significant problem is the presence, nationwide, of millions of illegal entrants, mostly with limited education, bloating the population, running down wage levels for resident low-skill workers, and, over time, running up welfare costs.

To cope with this, Congress could easily construct a "trigger" of, say, an annual reduction of the illegal alien population by 1.5- 2.0 million a year for three or four consecutive years and if and when this is achieved, then consider a legalization program.

Congress should, at the same time, stipulate that the estimates of that population would have to be made with the same methodology that has been used in recent years by the Office of Immigration Statistics, preferably by the same staff members who have devised the annual estimates. Those professionals might be given something like the security of tenure enjoyed by federal judges to protect them from the political pressures that might be coming from the Secretary of DHS.

This rational approach, of course, is unlikely to pass Congress because that body likes drama, wants quick action on legalization, and is overly susceptible to the big business lobbyists' seductive pitch that the illegals really are not harming the nation any way.