Co-author of Arizona immigration law says 'self-deportation' working

Immigration crackdowns in Arizona and Alabama are succeeding in persuading illegal immigrants to voluntarily leave the country, the co-author of tough immigration laws in both of those states said Saturday.

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, an ardent opponent of illegal immigration who has endorsed Mitt Romney, said jobs are opening up for Americans and school budgets flourishing thanks to tough new policies.

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"If you want to create a job for a U.S. citizen tomorrow, deport an illegal alien today," Kobach said to boisterous applause at the Conservative Political Action Conference.

Since Arizona passed the Legal Arizona Workers Act in 2007 requiring Arizona employers to use the E-Verify system, "people started self-deporting by the tens of thousands," Kobach said.

He also argued that Arizona's primary and secondary education system had seen a "surprise surplus" of almost $50 million.

"Why? Because so many had self-deported," Kobach said.

He extended that argument to Alabama, where he said that in four months since a new tough illegal immigration policy was put in place, unemployment had dropped 1.9 percentage points in parts of the state where meat packing is a major industry.

Kobach did not offer any evidence demonstrating that either consequence had been the result of immigration policies, as opposed to any number of economic or other factors that could contribute to education budgets and the decision by immigrants to leave the country.

The idea of self-deportation, which Kobach said should properly be referred to as "attrition through enforcement," has become a buzzword since Mitt Romney used it repeatedly in a January GOP presidential debate. He said that illegal immigrants shouldn't be forcefully deported en masse, but encouraged to leave voluntarily through policies that denied them opportunities for employment.

Kobach is supporting Mitt Romney's presidential bid and acting as an informal advisor on immigration issues, according to reports.

Kobach spoke at CPAC directly after Alex Nowrasteh, a policy analyst for the Competitive Enterprise Institute, who was booed multiple times for arguing in favor of immigration and discussing its advantages.

- This post was updated at 11:52 a.m.

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