Wednesday, December 26, 2007

More illegals leaving voluntarily

Or as this story puts it, "self deport".

The couple are among a growing number of illegal immigrants across the United States who are starting to pack their bags and move on as a crackdown on undocumented immigrants widens and the U.S. economy slows, turning a traditional Christmas trek home into a one-way trip.

The article at first implies that one, a majority of illegals who are moving are going back to Mexico, and two, the reason is because of immigration crackdowns in many states. I have no doubt that these two things are connected, but I find it implausible that is the primary reason. The article itself later goes on to give contradictory evidence:

While some illegal immigrants are simply self deporting, others are moving within the United States to avoid federal immigration raids and pro-enforcement measures passed by a patchwork of state and local authorities.

I'm inclined to believe that more people would do that than simply leave. At a certain point, of course, the other, safer, states would simply run out of capacity to absorb them. However, we haven't seen that in any state in the US, ever, so it's not likely that would deter anyone from moving to say, Vermont or New Hampshire.

But although it would be hard to prove one way or another, I'd wager money that the more important reason is the economic downturn the US is suffering, especially in the housing sector. We've blogged about that before in a variety of posts you can see by clicking this link. New data (from Business Week Online) says:

U.S. home prices fell in October for the 10th consecutive month, posting their largest monthly drop since 1991, a widely watched index showed on Dec. 26. The record 6.7% drop in the Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller home price index also marked the 23rd consecutive month prices either grew more slowly or declined.

And from NPR:

Not too long ago, foreclosures were considered a rare, unhappy event. Now entire cities are plagued by foreclosures — which are at their highest level since the Great Depression. At the same time, new home construction has fallen to the level it was at in 1991

Now couple that with this statistic (from the San Francisco Chronicle):

The National Association of Home Builders estimates that 20 percent of the construction workforce -- about 2.4 million people -- is foreign-born. While it's impossible to know how many are undocumented, some estimates put the number at 50 percent or more.

(It's a year old, but there's no reason to think it would have changed in that year). It's easy to see that there's going to be a strong connection between home construction and immigration. I'm not saying the crackdowns have nothing to do with it, but as with crackdowns on illegal drugs, they weren't showing a lot of success before. There's no reason to think that simply because enforcement got stronger there wasn't enough economic incentive for illegals to stay. After all, they've been being deported and sneaking back for decades already. Nothing much we do is likely to change that.

The point I'm trying to make is that people shouldn't be out there cheering in the streets because some illegals are finally going back home. The problem is not solved at all, and tougher laws and more stringent enforcement aren't the most effective answer. As you can see, it's all about jobs. One final point (from the AP article):

Other returning immigrants cite a slowdown in the U.S. economy as a factor, and the falling value of the U.S. dollar against other currencies, which has eaten into the value of remittances sent to support families at home.

Yeah, it's all about the money. If it's not worth it to work here, they won't. But watch, when in five years, or two or ten, whenever it happens, the US economy turns around and gets supercharged again, if we haven't solved the problem in the meanwhile they'll come back. They'll just come back to make money like they did before. That's an official TWM prediction and warning to lawmakers: do something about immigration before it happens!


Xanthippas said...

It's a tad scary that our economy could slow down to the point that poor people from Mexico don't think it's worth it to come here.

Nat-Wu said...

True, but it's only because illegals don't get white collar jobs. If they could, they, like many of us, would still be able to find employment. So far this is only hurting blue collar labor in a variety of sectors. Of course, with the disconnect between the haves and have-nots in this country growing wider, there aren't many people left who can afford to lose a job. And the Americans who are affected by this can't just go to Mexico.