This section of DiscoverTheNetworks examines what measures can be taken not only to curtail or prevent future illegal immigration, but also to reduce the number of illegals who are currently living in the United States. Many legislators who have supported "immigration reform" proposals in recent years -- most notably Senators John McCain and the late Edward Kennedy -- have suggested that because the federal government would be unable to quickly deport the estimated 12-20 million illegal aliens already residing in America, the only practical alternative would be the creation of a "pathway" toward wholesale legalization (i.e., amnesty) over a period of a few years.
Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies suggests, instead, that the U.S. should try to shrink its illegal population through consistent, across-the-board enforcement of the existing immigration law. This would require political and legal authorities to make a commitment to the use of conventional measures such as arrests, prosecutions, deportations, and asset seizures. Moreover, they would need to encourage the expanded use of measures to verify legal status at a variety of important points, such as:
- conducting worksite raids and arrests of illegal employees;
- permitting police officers to check for immigration violations during traffic stops and other arrests; and
- permitting state and local governments to enforce federal immigration law.
Such practices would cause many illegals to voluntarily deport themselves. Says Krikorian:
"This is analogous to the approach a corporation might take to downsizing a bloated workforce: a hiring freeze, some layoffs, plus new incentives to encourage excess workers to leave on their own."
The foregoing approach would exploit certain immigration-related trends that are already observable. According to a 2003 report from the Immigration and Naturalization Service, for example, each year from 1995 to 1999 an average of 165,000 illegal aliens returned to their homelands after having resided in the U.S. for at least 12 months; another 165,000 or so secured some kind of legal status; about 50,000 were deported; and 25,000 died. All told, slightly more than 400,000 people each year were subtracted from the resident illegal population.
During that same period, however, an average of 800,000 new illegal aliens entered the U.S. each year, meaning that there was an annual net increase of about 400,000 in the illegal population. Stepped-up enforcement efforts, coupled with the already-existing attrition rates, would reverse this trend.
Another potentially vital piece of the enforcement puzzle could be the expansion of a physical barrier where the southern U.S. border meets northern Mexico. In 2006 Congress passed the Secure Fence Act (SFA), which earmarked $1.2 billion for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to use for the construction of 700 miles of double-layered fencing along portions of the 1,950-mile U.S.-Mexican border by the end of that year. The Act further called for the installaton of cameras, motion sensors, and other types of border-protection technology.