Yeah, Yeah, "Attrition Through Enforcement"—But It's No Substitute For An Immigration Moratorium

There are dozens of reasons to oppose mass immigration. But with 14.8 million Americans unemployed as of January and another 10.4 million working part-time involuntarily or too discouraged to look for work, and with President Obama calling jobs the Number One issue, the displacement of American workers by immigrants jumps out.

There are currently eight million illegal aliens in the workforce, and the federal government issues 1.5 million work visas every year. Dealing with these two issues would immediately solve the unemployment problem. The two obvious steps are:

A few Republicans are speaking out about the effect illegal immigration has on workers. But no one in Washington is talking about legal immigration.

Numbers USA along with a few prominent commentators such as Pat Buchanan, Bay Buchanan, and former Congressmen Virgil Goode and Tom Tancredo have called for a moratorium. But there's barely been a peep inside the beltway.

Rep. Lamar Smith, who has been a leader in the fight against legal and illegal immigration, issued a statement "President Obama could create eight million jobs for citizens and legal workers simply by enforcing immigration laws." [Obama Ignores Eight-Million 'Stolen' Jobs, December 3, 2009]. Eight million = the illegal alien presence in the workforce.

The Federation for American Immigration Reform, the largest patriotic immigration reform organization, which spearheaded earlier moratorium campaigns, has produced numerous press releases bringing up the jobs issue, such as this one after the President's State of the Union:

"President's Focus on Putting Americans Back to Work Missing Key Element, Says FAIR: Enforcing Immigration Laws Could Open up 8 Million Jobs."

But we could just as easily send out a release saying:

"FAIR's focus on Putting Americans Back to Work Missing Key Element, Says VDARE.COM: A Moratorium on Legal Immigration Could Open Up 1.5 Million Jobs a Year."

The closest a moratorium has made it to Congress is Roy Beck of Numbers USA's testimony at a Republican congressional hearing.

Why? I've talked to a few Hill Staffers who claim that it is just not "practical" to urge for a moratorium—that we can only do "one thing at a time".

Bunk! If we can only deal with half of the mass immigration problem, a moratorium is more practical and pressing than cracking down on illegal immigration.

This may seem counterintuitive in an age where intoning "we welcome legal immigrants" has become a standard preface before Republicans and conservative talk show hosts say anything against illegal immigration. But hear me out.

Legal immigration displaces more jobs than illegal immigration. Yes, 8 million is more than 1.5 million, but we are talking about 1.5 million legal immigrants every year. The total foreign born population in the American work force is 23.9 million–just about the same as the total jobless population in the US.

That means there are two legal immigrant workers for every illegal immigrant workers. With a modicum of enforcement and a poor economy, the illegal immigrant population is growing much more slowly than it was a few years ago. Some believe it's shrinking.

Smith and FAIR both support dealing with immigration through the attrition strategy. But even its own advocates claim attrition would only reduce the illegal alien population by 1.5 million a year. Not all of those illegals will have jobs and CIS estimates that 183,000 of those illegals would leave anyway. So a legal immigration moratorium will save more jobs total per year, and in the long run, than attrition.

Furthermore, though it becomes harder to deal with the illegal population the longer they stay, we can still legally send them home without a huge deal of red tape unless they get amnesty. However, of the 1.5 million visas we issue each year, over half are permanent work visas. And it is still easier for a legal temporary worker to get permanent residency than an illegal alien.

A moratorium on legal immigration is also a much simpler task to undertake.

To underscore the simplicity of cutting down legal immigration, I will make a confession: removing the illegal alien population from the United States, whether by attrition and/or mass deportations cannot happen overnight, won't be free, and will lend itself to plenty of politically costly sob stories.

As I say, "Attrition Through Enforcement" has become the preferred method for Congressional Republicans and Beltway immigration patriots to deal with illegal immigration. It entails reducing welfare for illegal aliens, increasing cooperation with state law enforcement officials in deporting illegal aliens who commit other crimes, and keeping illegals out of the workforce through mandatory E-Verify.

This is a good start. But not every single illegal alien has a job, is on welfare, or commits additional crimes. Many illegal aliens will try to work under the table, while others will just become a public burden. Emergency rooms and public schools are the most costly government services used by illegal aliens, and they are currently off limits because of the courts.

According to the Center for Immigration Studies—which more or less invented the attrition strategy—a fully implemented attrition agenda would reduce the illegal population by 1.5 million annually at a cost of 400 million dollars a year. [Attrition Through Enforcement, April 2006]. Depending on what estimate of the illegal population you accept, this will cost between $3.2 to 6 billion over eight to 15 years.

If we want to get rid of the population faster, attrition needs to be coupled with large scale deportations. Without a single politician supporting mass deportations (that's another story), it's a safe bet we won't be able to repeat Operation Wetback, where we send illegals straight back to Mexico on buses. Nor will we be able to use "racial profiling", although it would be entirely reasonable.

It will take some serious law enforcement costs to locate the illegal aliens. Then they will be held in detention facilities, and there will be legal costs for the deportation procedures.

Finally, I will also be the first to admit that some illegal immigrants are perfectly nice people, were brought here by their parents as young children, have roots in the community, and/or have young US Citizen children. Any successful removal of illegal aliens will be replete with sob stories about these hardships that will demoralize many erstwhile opponents of illegal immigration.

Don't get me wrong—I absolutely support an attrition-plus-deportation policy. The cost would be about as much as a few weeks in Iraq and Afghanistan and less than 1 percent of Obama's stimulus bill.

And of course, the price of enforcement is paid back several times over by the money saved on government services. For every sob story of a honor roll anchor baby whose mother was deported, there are a dozens of unreported stories of victims of illegal alien crime, people whose schools and neighborhoods were destroyed, or jobs were undercut by illegal aliens.

The benefits of dealing with illegal immigration greatly outweigh the costs. But there's no denying that there are some costs.

In contrast, an immigration moratorium will not cost a dime. All it requires is a swipe of a pen that changes a law.

Nor will it be the source for any sob stories, because we are not dealing with any actual separated families or honor students, not to mention the fact that reporters are too poor and lazy to go out of the country to find some imaginary immigrant who dreams of saying the Pledge of Allegiance.

I've heard "You can't deport X million illegal aliens" ad nauseam. Wrong, of course.

But immigration enthusiasts can't say "You can't change visa levels."

Well, actually they can, of course. Immigration enthusiasts are capable of anything. But they would be even more obviously wrong than usual.

"Washington Watcher" [email him] is an anonymous source Inside The Beltway.