October 3, 2008

October 3, 2008 | Commentary on Economy

Will new prez keep up crackdown on illegals?

Will Mexico need a bailout?

That country's second-largest source of income is money sent home by Mexicans living in the U.S. Most of that comes from illegal immigrants.

For the month of August, Mexico's central bank reported a 12 percent drop in receipts from the U.S., compared to the previous August. This August, money sent from the U.S. totaled $1.9 billion, down from $2.2 billion in August 2007.

For the first eight months of 2008, the overall drop had been only 4 percent.

The bank attributed August's steep fall-off to a declining U.S. economy and greater immigration enforcement.

The latter point is important. Consider this: Mexico's single biggest money maker is oil. But oil prices are dropping. In other years, that might have prompted more Mexicans to seek their fortune in the U.S., taking their chance by entering illegally.

But not this year.

The state bank didn't mention it, but there are fewer persons sending money back home. Earlier this year, the Center for Immigration Studies evaluated census updates and concluded that 1.3 million illegal immigrants left America during the past year - an 11 percent drop CIS attributes to stepped-up enforcement.

Obviously, when far fewer people are sending checks, the total amount drops.

U.S. immigration authorities have raised their profile this past year with high-count raids, rather than simply spot enforcement. Some of the most recent and biggest busts include:

  • May - 700 picked up at a kosher meatpacking plant in Postville, Iowa
  • August - 600 illegals arrested at a Laurel, Miss., manufacturing plant
  • September - Over 1,100 arrested in a rolling three-week federal effort in California

Soon, greater state enforcement may accelerate the trends. State laws cracking down on illegal immigrants have already been credited with sparking many thousands of "self-deportations." This has occurred despite court challenges intended to slow the laws' effectiveness. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, through its National Chamber Litigation Center, has bankrolled numerous lawsuits challenging such laws in Arizona, Oklahoma and elsewhere.

As Chamber President Tom Donahue writes, "The U.S. Chamber has been battling similar state and local laws and is the lead plaintiff in the Oklahoma case. The only thing worse than one broken federal system is hundreds of different systems that are contradictory, probably unconstitutional and impossible for businesses to follow."

But two weeks ago, in another blow to those who want to reverse the stricter law enforcement, the infamously liberal U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the legality of Arizona's law that punishes businesses if they knowingly hire illegals or if they fail to verify their workers' employability. More appeals are certain, and that will take more time.

But the fastest-moving difference-maker is Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, who has insisted his agency step-up its enforcement of the law. To most, it's reason to cheer. To others, it sparks an outcry. But thanks to Chertoff, at least things are not standing still.

That progress is fragile, however, because Chertoff presumably will be replaced by the new president in January. Court decisions about state laws will not all be resolved by then, so the current, positive trends may taper off, or even reverse.

Immigration has not been a presidential campaign issue because both Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain last year were supporting the legislation that sparked a public outcry against amnesty. Plus, economic issues have dominated.

The question is: Will this year's immigration progress continue when Chertoff is replaced and there's a new occupant in the White House? That may depend upon whether the public rediscovers its formerly loud voice on the issue.

Ernest Istook is recovering from serving 14 years in Congress and is now a distinguished fellow at The Heritage Foundation.


About the Author

Ernest Istook Distinguished Fellow
Government Studies

Related Issues: Economy

First Appeared in WorldNet Daily