Enforcement the way forward on immigration

A recent opinion piece (“The economic ignorance of immigration restrictionists,” March 25) paints a simplistic picture of the immigration debate: either deport or legalize millions of illegal immigrants. But there is another option — attrition through enforcement.

Illegal immigration costs taxpayers billions each year and drives down wages for legal workers. Attrition through enforcement embodies the idea that if we fully enforce our immigration laws and close loopholes that encourage illegal immigration, illegal immigrants will leave on their own and wages will go up. And the facts back up this approach.

According to a recent report from the Public Policy Institute of California: “Arizona’s unauthorized immigrant population shrank after employers were required to verify workers’ legal status with the federal E-Verify system. … Arizona’s population of unauthorized immigrants of working age fell by about 17 percent, or about 92,000 people.”

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Worksite enforcement activities also have the same effect. When Georgia’s Crider Inc. lost more than 600 illegal workers after worksite enforcement action, the company increased wages by a dollar an hour and attracted legal workers.

When immigration laws are enforced, it sends the message to illegal immigrants and illegal border crossers that we take our laws seriously. In light of these facts, it seems pro-amnesty supporters knowingly leave attrition through enforcement off the table because it has proved to work and threatens their agenda.


Smith is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.