That might as well be the motto of the Obama administration. And we see it play out in the numbers. DHS’s immigration statistics office will probably soon release its latest estimate of the size of the illegal population (this one will be as of January 1, 2011). My colleague Steve Camarota estimates the number will be 10.9 million, give or take a couple hundred thousand. If that ends up being the case, that will mean that the illegal population stopped declining as soon as Obama took office, after dropping by one million during the last two years of the Bush administration. While part of this is obviously the economy (Hispanics got the majority of new jobs in 2011), the stark change in enforcement is also a factor. Obama’s administrative amnesty has made it crystal clear to illegal immigrants that only chumps obey the law and go home.
And much of the drop in the illegal population was accounted for by established, long-term illegal aliens, not those who’d just arrived and turned back around. Published DHS estimates show that the number of illegal immigrants who’d arrived here before the year 2000 dropped by more than 800,000 between 2007 and 2009. Sure, some died and some finagled a green card, but hundreds of thousands left.
That’s because illegal aliens are people too, and they respond to changed incentives just like anyone else. When the signals they were getting after the collapse of the amnesty bill in 2007 and the subsequent increase in enforcement said “Go home,” lots of them did, including many who’ve lived here for many years. Since The One’s inauguration, the signals are practically screaming “Stay!,” so they stay.