SAN DIEGO. They said it couldn't be done, but the Mexican border is not quite the sieve it was only a few months ago. The law is not a ass, after all.
The number of Hispanic illegals, mostly Mexicans, crossing the border into the United States is down sharply from a year ago. This is in part because the feds are trying harder to enforce immigration law and in part because the decline of construction jobs makes the United States less attractive to the illegals.
Raids on workplaces, a willingness to deport illegals and the determination of employers to demand proof of legal entry has reduced by a third the number of illegal border crossers. Many employers of illegals, ever on the scout for an abundant supply of cheap and easily abused labor, are nevertheless more cautious, at least for now. The sharp decline in jobs available in the construction trades the source of jobs for 1 in 4 illegals making it into the United States have combined to persuade lawbreakers to stay on their side of the Rio Grande.
"Better not to come," Lorenzo Martinez, 36, an unskilled construction worker who a year ago was sending $1,000 a month home to Mexico, tells the Los Angeles Times. He has warned family and friends in the Mexican state of Hidalgo, whence he came, that "the situation is really bad."
Good or bad depends on your point of view, of course, and enforcing the law on the Mexican border, once a running sore as perceived from this side of the border, is good news for us. If the good news for us continues, it might one day be good news for some of the millions of illegals already amongst us. The 80 percent of Americans angered by uncontrolled immigration might be more willing to talk about compromise if order is restored on the border.
Immigration is still the issue that drives intense emotions in the presidential campaign, now getting serious. Mitt Romney this week retrieved a remark by John McCain from 2003, since more or less disavowed, to paint him as irredeemably "pro-amnesty." The old fighter pilot, now enjoying a resurgence in the polls, fired back with a rocket: "I know something about tailspins, and it's pretty clear that Mitt Romney is in one."
There's little doubt that the decline of the housing market is shrinking opportunities for illegals. "The hot housing market cooled off, and it's stopping people from moving," William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution, tells USA Today. "I think the migration go-go years are over. The American dream is out of reach ... You can't move out as fast, and you can't find a place at the other end."
Thousands of Mexicans and other Hispanics who only yesterday imagined their future lay in the north are having second and even third thoughts. A recent Mexican government survey that found a third fewer Mexicans planning to find a way across the border is reflected in the declining numbers of illegals arrested by U.S. border officers. Just over 875,000 illegals were arrested through September this year, down 20 percent from the same period a year ago. Earlier this decade the volume of remittances from illegals working in the United States more than $20 billion annually were growing at the rate of 20 percent a year. Now that growth rate has dwindled to just over 1 percent.
The squeeze on illegal immigration is big news in Mexico. The raids on employers of illegals, like the sweep through Los Angeles last fall that netted 1,300 illegals in a single stroke, gets bold, black headlines in the Mexican newspapers. So has the news that towns and cities across the United States, impatient with sluggish federal attention, are enacting laws to deny services to illegals.
The Mexican mind-set may be changing. "Illegal immigrants are rational people," Ira Mehlman of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, tells the Los Angeles Times. "They will change their behavior." And not just the illegal immigrants. The U.S. government, which has been in collusion with the lawless to keep the border open, may be changing its behavior, too. You could look it up.