I wrote earlier this week about a Pew report indicating a decline in illegal immigration from Mexico. But the Dallas Morning News warns that the problem is not yet solved, and will not be solved until our elected representatives find the courage to debate and pass comprehensive immigration reform. The editorial is good enough to reproduce in full here:
The estimated number of illegal immigrants in the United States sank by nearly a million to 11.1 million from 2007 to 2009, suggesting that the tide has turned in efforts to fix the nation’s broken immigration system. Opponents of comprehensive immigration reform already are claiming that new migration statistics from the Pew Hispanic Center vindicate their position that tougher enforcement, not reform, is the solution.
There’s no disputing the trend toward lower numbers. Major indicators, however, point to the economy as the principal driver, bolstered by a growing anti-illegal immigrant mood across the nation.
The 2007 slump in homebuilding, a major magnet for low-cost migrant labor, set off the wave. The subsequent national recession further soured the migrant job market. However, the number of illegal immigrants in Texas continues rising – largely because our unemployment rate remains lower than the rest of the country. Analysts say it appears that some migrants aren’t necessarily going home but are relocating to states where the jobs are.
At the same time, American companies are facing tough new sanctions for employing illegal immigrants, making them far less inclined to take that risk. The Obama administration also has dramatically stepped up efforts to remove illegal immigrants in federal custody, having deported 389,000 last year and aiming for a record 400,000 this year.
Finally, the danger of sneaking into the United States has grown dramatically because of border-area violence. Drug gangs are kidnapping northbound migrants and holding them for ransom. The recent mass murder of 72 Central and South American migrants in the state of Tamaulipas underscores the intolerably high risks.
These factors have combined to produce the remarkable numbers in the Pew report. Problem solved, right? Hardly. Remember: A whopping 11.1 million illegal immigrants remain. And when the U.S. economy improves, jobs will lure other migrants back. Mexican gangs vying for control of border smuggling routes eventually will see they have a financial stake in increasing, not deterring, the flow of migrants northward.
That’s why comprehensive immigration reform remains the long-term solution – along with sustained, tough enforcement – to ensure that migrants seeking entry into this country do it by the book, while those already residing here understand there’s no choice but to legalize their status and pay for having broken the law.
Employers must have access to a predictable supply of legal, low-cost migrant labor, which can be guaranteed only through a scheduled system of temporary work visas envisioned under comprehensive reform.
These numbers point to signs of short-term progress on immigration, but don’t be fooled. This problem is far from solved, and it will keep coming back until Congress gets serious about comprehensive reform.