Even as the debate over illegal immigration has heated up, the actual number of unlawful immigrants crossing into the U.S. has shrunk by about two-thirds, according to the nonpartisan Pew Hispanic Center — with the nation's total undocumented immigration population falling by "nearly a million... between 2009 than in 2007." And while there are several reasons for this "first significant reversal" in immigration trends since 1990, the biggest is the drying up of jobs. Has the recession alleviated America's immigration problem? (Watch a report about the new immigration figures)
Anti-immigration "hysteria" was never based on facts: Illegal immigration "has always been about jobs," so it's "unsurprising" that the influx has slowed to a "relative trickle," says Jay Bookman at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. But that reduction won't solve the real problem: The "overheated rhetoric" and "hysteria" dominating the debate.
"Illegal immigration down sharply; immigration hysteria up sharply"
It's not that simple: This isn't all about jobs, says Mark Krikorian in National Review. "The decline started before the recession, in response to the stirrings of enforcement activity at the tail-end of the Bush administration, and then was accelerated by the economic downturn." What we need to do is increase Bush-style enforcement efforts and "see how much more we can reduce the total before we surrender and declare an amnesty."
"If Pew says it, it must be true!"
The recession has given us a window to permanently solve the problem: All the "major indicators... point to the economy as the principal driver" of the "remarkable numbers in the Pew report," says The Dallas Morning News in an editorial. But we still have 11.1 million illegal immigrants, and more will come in better times. The only long-term solution is to build on this "short-term progress" by finally passing comprehensive immigration reform.
"Don't be fooled by immigration decline"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- How academia's liberal bias is killing social science
- Dick Cheney's America is an ugly place
- How to make the ultimate grilled cheese
- The Hobbit: A disappointing set of movies, but a worthy set of prequels
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- The liberation of Barack Obama
- Diagnosing the Home Alone burglars' injuries: A professional weighs in
- What the media gets wrong about Jeb Bush
Subscribe to the Week