Short-sighted Immigration Study Misses the Point

By Rinku Sen Jul 31, 2008

The Center for Immigration Studies has released a new report claiming that the numbers of undocumented immigrants have shrunk by as much as 11 percent, or by 1.3 million. They assert that stepped-up enforcement has encouraged many undocumented people to self deport. While the numeric methodology has been criticized today in the New York Times, CIS will likely stick by it. Jeffrey Passel of the Pew Hispanic Center, widely considered the leading demographer on undocumented immigration, says that his calculations also show some drop, but that it’s too early to predict its scope. In a statement released by the Immigration Policy Center, veteran immigrant rights advocate Angela Kelley echoed other critics on the real question – restrictionists can’t claim that this year’s brutal immigration raids led to the drop. The sorry state of the U.S. economy is much more likely to be the cause. Full disclosure, CIS’s executive director Mark Krikorian is quoted at length in my upcoming book The Accidental American. CIS’s larger agenda is to cut back all immigration, both legal and undocumented, under the theory that modern American society cannot absorb masses of uneducated immigrants, no matter what their status. Krikorian is an enforcement-only man, no “Comprehensive Immigration Reform” for him. Yet, all of the expanded border enforcement of the 80s and 90s had no effect whatsoever on the undocumented population other than to drive migrants to more dangerous crossing over territory and pump up the numbers of people dying on the border. Ultimately, CIS’ notion that less immigration will leave more for U.S. citizens and legal residents has yet to be proved. Nativists tend to feel better seeing the brown people leaving, but there’s no evidence that their communities get a better economy, culture or any other benefits from driving immigrants out. Recent stories actually following up on towns that have attacked their immigrant populations with English-only and other punitive laws now find themselves living in a ghost town, taking the labor, their food, their taxes and their civic-mindedness with them. Eventually, unless economies around the world improve, undocumented immigrants will be back because the combination of our short-sighted immigration policy and U.S.-centric global economic policy create a situation in which people are forced to migrate, and forced to do so without authorization. Only by creating a more open immigration policy, along with a fair globalization, can we break the cycle in which people come, are forced underground, eventually legalized but never really considered full members of U.S. society.