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At a news conference held last week to detail his agency’s recent achievements, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff discussed how the economy, along with increased enforcement, are reducing the number of inbound illegal aliens and increasing departures home. He cited certain “metrics,” such as fewer illegal-alien apprehensions at the borders, and pointed to illegal-alien population studies as evidence of a reversing migratory trend. Reports from foreign officials reinforce his conclusion.The Border Patrol made 723,825 apprehensions in Federal fiscal year 2008, which ended in September. The number is down 18 percent from the previous year and down 39 percent from in 2005. This is likely due to increased border deterrence – over 17,600 agents now patrol the borders – and fewer aliens making the illegal trek knowing jobs are not waiting in favored industries on the other end. “(I)t tells us for the first time that the efforts we are undertaking at the border have begun to turn the tide on illegal immigration and have begun to move that tide away from increased migration and towards decreased migration…The fact that legal migration is now above illegal migration tells us there is more at work than just the economy. This is the positive result of enforcement, both at the border and the interior,” Chertoff said. With easy-to-get jobs on the wane, DHS’ more aggressive interior enforcement efforts, in combination with state and local efforts, may be persuading more illegal aliens to leave. The new focus on workplace and fugitive-alien enforcement was covered widely, although not fairly, in the press. But the slanted coverage could not mask the bottom line – illegal aliens left their established enclaves after enforcement actions.DHS made over 5,100 administrative arrests for immigration violations in fiscal year 2008, of which 1,100 were related to workplace enforcement cases. That compares with 4,000 administrative arrests and 863 criminal arrests in the prior year. DHS also arrested 34,000 fugitive aliens in the past year, several thousand above the prior fiscal year and double what occurred in 2006. Enforcement and removal activities resulted in the deportation of 250,000 illegal aliens in fiscal 2008, a record. In the past year, DHS also lodged criminal charges against 135 employers or people in the supervisory chain, and against 966 employees or others involved in criminal activity related to work site enforcement. Media reports suggest that these criminal charges, as opposed to the fines which some illicit employers view as a cost of doing business, are prompting more employers to turn off the jobs spigot for illegal aliens. When fewer jobs are available, illegal aliens cannot sustain remittance levels to their home countries, something that had been had been growing by double-digits every year to Latin American and Caribbean nations. Chertoff picked up on this metric, noting an Inter-American Bank study that reported remittances to these nations fell to $1.9 billion for August, a 12.2 percent drop from the same period in the prior year.

Chertoff cited a recent study by the Pew Hispanic Center as evidence that the illegal-alien population has decreased. The study found that illegal aliens were leaving the country due to the economy and enforcement. For the first time in a decade, newly-arriving legal immigrants were found to outnumber newly-arriving illegal aliens. The numbers arriving from Mexico were thought to have leveled off while the numbers from other Latin-nation arrivals had fallen since 2007.

This conclusion is supported by a recent Center for Immigration Studies analysis which found the illegal-alien population had declined by 11 percent through May 2008 after hitting a peak in August 2007. That study said “(t)he estimated decline of the illegal population is at least seven times larger than the number of illegal aliens removed by the government in the last 10 months, so most of the decline is due to illegal immigrants leaving the country on their own.”

An Associated Press story notes that “(t)housands of Latin American immigrants both legal and illegal are going back home as the economic crisis in the U.S. causes jobs to dry up in the construction, landscaping and restaurant industries.” Government officials contacted in Mexico City predicted that between 20,000 and 30,000 migrants above the usual number will return from the U.S. in the next few months. Consulate officials in California and Chicago also reported that about 4,000 more Mexican migrants than usual have already returned.

Click here to read Chertoff’s speech or here to see the related AP story.

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Updated: Wed, Jul 5th 2017 @ 2:19pm EDT