Michael Barone thinks illegal Mexican immigration into the United States might be a thing of the past for three reasons. First, birthrates among Mexican-born, America-residing women are down 24 percent. Second, up to one-third of the housing foreclosures in California, Nevada, Arizona and Florida since 2007 are estimated to belong to low-income Latino households. Since there is always a time-lag in getting these kinds of data points, they go a long way to explaining reason number three: Mexican migration north was reported to be zero earlier this year for the first since the boom began in 1982.
All of this adds up:
Beneath the cold statistics on foreclosures and births is a human story, a story of people whose personal lives have been deeply affected by economic developments over which they had no control and of which they had no warning.
Those events have prompted many to resort to, in Mitt Romney’s chilly words, “self-deportation.” And their experiences are likely to have reverberations for many others who have learned of their plight.
Still, I’m hesitant to adopt Barone’s conclusion of a complete end to illegal Mexican immigration.
If it’s true that the bursting of the housing bubble and the concurrent recession are causing illegal Mexican immigrants to voluntarily repatriate themselves, then it’s a mixed bag for conservative immigration reformers. While it’s good that the number of illegal immigrants is dropping, it’s not because of any fealty to enforcement policy by government officials. Instead, it’s because of terrible economic stewardship by President Barack Obama and his tax-and-spend allies in Congress.
In short, if the economy rebounds, so will illegal immigration.
But don’t think that liberal amnesty seekers won’t use Barone’s data points to deny that cause-and-effect relationship.
Moreover, if the rumors are true that comprehensive immigration reform is the next bipartisan agenda item after the fiscal cliff showdown, then conservative reformers shouldn’t give an inch on the need to secure the border. Furthermore, in order to blunt calls for amnesty because the illegal immigration problem allegedly is under control, conservatives need a Paul Ryan-esque big think on how federal immigration serves the national interest.
Personally, I’m open to a lot of different conclusions. However, I deplore the incoherence of the current federal regime of passing laws politicians don’t intend to fund, and political appointees don’t intend to enforce. Like every big issue, the American people deserve a clear, coherent vision on immigration policy and how it serves the national interest.