Immigration Crackdown May Work--by Accident

Tougher enforcement rules could spur thousands of illegal workers to head back to their home countries.

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Many observers are concluding that new federal rules, which would require employers to fire workers with questionable Social Security numbers or face a fine, will do little to solve the illegal immigration problem. Count the Bush administration in that group. It seems likely that the White House is hoping that the outcry from an "enforcement only" approach to the issue— particularly from business—will force Congress to again take up comprehensive immigration reform and finally pass it. Consumers, too, may get more interested in the issue as they hear scare stories of farmers potentially unable to harvest their crops this autumn without the help of thousands of illegal workers. But what if the new Bush policy works? What if illegals, facing a greater chance of prosecution and reduced economic incentives to be here, start going home in droves? It could happen. A study by the Center for Immigration Studies found that after the Department of Homeland Security deported 1,500 illegal Pakistanis following 9/11, some 15,000 more illegal Pakistanis left the country on their own. And it's a lot tougher to get back to Pakistan than to Mexico and Central America. That is not the result Bush wants, but it could be the one he gets.

Weird Democratic Economics. In my post yesterday, I misattributed a quote from this week's Democratic debate by Barack Obama to John Edwards. Sorry about that. To make up for it, I will return to an actual comment made by Edwards: "I want to say NAFTA is a perfect example of the bigger problem.... And the question is, when are we going to change it? It's cost us a million jobs." Lots of things have "cost" us jobs. Like computers. I once heard that if we didn't have computers to do the switching and connecting job once performed by telephone operators, half the workforce would need to be telephone operators for it to function. Those jobs have been "lost." But I am pretty sure the economy is better and more vibrant than it was a half-century ago because of technology. And as I wrote yesterday, the economy has added tens of millions net new jobs since NAFTA was enacted.

Thanks! A quick shout-out to just some of the great blogs that linked to my post yesterday:

Say Anything,
Economics and Liberty,
The Q and O Blog,
Three Sources, and

immigration reform

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