The Corner

Self-Deportation

In Moliere’s Middle-Class Gentleman, the foolish title character is famously amazed to learn that he’s been speaking in prose his whole life.

That’s what I thought of when MSM reporters were amazed at the concept of self-deportation when Romney mentioned it last night. Roy Beck has dug up some of the commentary after the debate: An NPR writer called it “one of the odder turns of phrase that came up during the debate” while at MSNBC they referred to it as a “stumble” and an “opaque” concept.

These are people who obviously haven’t been paying attention. (The reds at Mother Jones are aghast at the idea, but they’re at least familiar with it.) Self-deportation is the core of a policy of attrition through enforcement, which has been the strategic framework for all the pro-enforcement measures of the past several years, at both the federal and state levels. The point is that illegal immigrants are persuaded to leave (to self-deport) because the party’s over — they can’t get jobs or a driver’s license (or welfare or in-state tuition) and, facing changed incentives, decide to return home. It’s the sensible middle way between rounding everybody up tomorrow, which we couldn’t do if we wanted to, and amnesty, which would just lead to another 11 million illegals a few years from now.

And, as the declines in Arizona’s and Alabama’s illegal population show, attrition works. It’s unlikely all illegal aliens would leave if we consistently enforced our laws, but a lot of them would. How many would still be here after, say, eight years of real, across-the-board enforcement? Who knows, but how about we give it a try and find out?

The fact that Romney brought it up suggests someone in his campaign has given the matter at least a little thought, which is more than I can say for Gingrich.

Mark Krikorian, a nationally recognized expert on immigration issues, has served as Executive Director of the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) since 1995.

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