A report from the Pew Hispanic Center finds that the economic downturn has coincided with a sharp decrease in illegal immigration. While sure to please anti-immigration advocates, the report mitigates their glee with a finding that the decreasing in incoming immigrants has not been matched with an increase in outgoing returnees. Alas, there still remains at least 10 million illegal immigrants in the United States that are unlikely to go home by themselves and impractical to forcibly deport.
The U.S. is still going to have to find some way to address the immigration issue that avoids the unsustainable option of doing nothing as well as the impractical and frequently racist alternatives of harsh anti-immigrant extremism. The most plausible alternative is a moderate policy of “let the punishment fit the crime”. We don’t use the death penalty for crime of embezzlement and we shouldn’t use blanket deportations and the forcible breaking of families for the crime of illegal immigration. Payment of an appropriate fine should allow continued residence and a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants who, after all, appear clearly to only be searching for legitimate economic opportunity just like those who cam before most of us in our own family trees.