Number of Illegal Immigrants in U.S. Dropping

| by Heritage Foundation

By Jena McNeill

The Department of Homeland Security recently published a report on the total population of illegal immigrants in the U.S.  The conclusion: the overall illegal immigrant population decreased from 11.6 million to 10.8 million in 2008, down further from 11.8 million in 2007.

As both the DHS report and an earlier report by the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) indicate, this decline in illegal immigrant numbers within the U.S. coincides directly with the recent economic downturn and increased enforcement measures to encourage illegal immigrants to go home in 2005-2008.   Facing economic challenges and decreased incentives to stay in the U.S., illegal immigrants have seemingly self-deported, indicating that lessening the economic incentives to illegal immigration presents one avenue for solving America’s immigration problem. In fact, according to the same CIS report, the number of illegal immigrants voluntarily returning home has more than doubled since 2007, compared to earlier in the decade.

The Obama Administration is likely to say that the U.S. needs to act quickly to monopolize on the decreased numbers of illegal immigrants living in the U.S.  Their solution, however, would be an amnesty for the 10.8 million illegal immigrants living in the United States.  This approach, however, is costly and simply encourages more folks to come to the United States illegally—the entirely wrong result. The right reform package would be one that that safeguards the southern border, promotes economic development and good governance in Latin America, enhances legal worker programs, reforms U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and enforces immigration and workplace laws.

The Obama Administration is right—the time to act is now.  When employment picks up again, illegal immigration is likely to begin to increase once more.  Now is the time to develop and implement sound steps in countering illegal immigration and protecting our nation’s borders—not developing amnesty proposals which would simply make the problem worse.