Russell Pearce

Last week, the Department of Homeland Security released their statistics on the illegal immigration for 2010. According to DHS, the total illegal population went down less than 1%, from 11.6 million at the beginning of the year to 11.5 million by the end. However, in the state of Arizona, the illegal population declined from 470,000 to 360,000; a decline of 23%. In April of 2010 the Arizona legislature passed SB 1070 to crack down on illegal immigration in the state. While parts of the law were blocked by a federal judge, illegal aliens in Arizona are getting the message that they are not welcome and left.

Opponents of SB 1070 recognize this. Also last week, the Supreme Court published the amicus brief it received from 11 Democratic Attorney Generals from states including Massachusetts, California, Illinois, and New York in opposition to SB 1070. Many of these states enacted sanctuary policies that forbid local law enforcement from cooperating with federal immigration authorities, even when illegal aliens are convicted of serious crimes. Not surprisingly illegal immigrants are attracted to these states, so they complain that “SB 1070’s provisions have the primary effect of redirecting undocumented immigrants to other States.”

If that’s true, then residents of these sanctuary states should be furious at their politicians for making their states a magnet for illegal immigration, not at Arizona.

That being said, many of the illegal immigrants are leaving Arizona to their country of origin. While the declining in illegal population was most dramatic in 2010, the illegal population has fallen by 200,000 when Arizona enacted the Legal Arizona Workers Act to crack down on employers of illegal immigrants. After the law went into effect legislators from the Mexican border province of Sonora complained that they could not handle all the illegal aliens returning! As the Tucson Citizen reported at the time,

“A delegation of nine state legislators from Sonora was in Tucson on Tuesday to say Arizona’s new employer sanctions law will have a devastating effect on the Mexican state., At a news conference, the legislators said Sonora … cannot handle the demand for housing, jobs and schools it will face as illegal Mexican workers here return to their hometowns without jobs or money.”

While DHS has not released illegal immigration statistics for 2011, the year that Alabama, South Carolina, and Georgia passed SB 1070 style legislation. However, anecdotal evidence suggests that illegals are leaving those states as well.

After Georgia passed HB 87, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported, “Officials at the Guatemalan, El Salvadoran and Honduran consulates in Georgia say many more people are seeking passports for themselves and dual citizenship for their children so they can return to their home countries amid fears concerning HB 87.”

In Alabama, the New York Times ran the headline about the poultry processing town of Albertville, Alabama entitled “Hispanics flee Alabama Town.” Of course, the title is misleading because only Hispanics who are illegally have any reason to leave. However, later in the piece, they note that after the illegals left, “one of the poultry processing plants in Albertville had a job fair, attracting an enormous crowd, a mix of Hispanic, black and white job-seekers, lining up outside the plant and down the street.”

Not surprisingly, Alabama’s unemployment rate has fallen by 9.3% when the law passed last June to 7.6%--more than three times the decline of the national unemployment rate.

All of this great progress has occurred despite the fact that activist judges have blocked portions of the tough immigration laws. The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments over SB 1070 later this month. I am cautiously optimistic that they will uphold the measure, and if that happens, you can expect the number of illegal immigrants to decline even further.

For years, amnesty supporters have insisted that enforcement does not work. The success in Georgia, Arizona, Alabama, and South Carolina proves them wrong. Instead of harassing the states for enforcing the law, the federal government should follow our lead.


Russell Pearce

Russell Pearce served as President of the Arizona State Senate where he authored SB 1070. He is currently president of Ban Amnesty Now.