Deportation and immigration law enforcement

Deportation of illegal aliens

Those who claim that we can not possibly round up and deport 11 million illegal aliens are offering a false choice. There is no need to round up and deport the 11 to 38 million illegal aliens living in the U.S. If we enforce existing laws, deny public benefits to illegal aliens, and make e-Verify mandatory so that aliens can not work illegally in our country, they will voluntarily return home to reunite with their families. 

This report explains the false choice: Mass Deportations or Mass Legalizations: A False Choice, Center for Immigration Studies, October 2015. The report divides illegal aliens into three groups:

  1. those who would return home of their own accord if we left them alone ("voluntary returnees");
  2. those who would not ("reluctant returnees"); and
  3. those who need not return because they have been awarded lawful status under a program similar to the 1986 amnesty (which legalized approximately three million illegal aliens).

Voluntary returnees

Many illegal aliens will voluntarily return home if they can not find work in the United States. The CIS report notes that "Unless we entice them to stay through a legalization program, many will voluntarily repatriate because they are homesick, cannot find a steady job, or have achieved their financial objectives, such as building a home in their village. Many, if not most, never intended to make the United States their permanent home."

Reluctant returnees

The CIS report notes that According to the 2013 Yearbook of Immigration Statistics, published by the Department of Homeland Security, approximately 173 million nonimmigrant aliens entered the United States in 2013 - that is, approximately 10 million every three weeks. Yet we do not rely on forcible deportation to remove those whose visas have expired. Instead, we rely on the "soft power" of withholding employment, non-emergency government benefits, driver's licenses, etc.

As noted in the report, there are three ways to magnify "soft-power" removal of illegal aliens:

  • Make e-Verify universally mandatory.
  • SSNVS. The SSA has established the Social Security Number Verification Service, a version of E-Verify that enables employers, without involvement of USCIS, to verify the SSNs not only of newly hired employees, but also of their entire current payroll.
  • No-Match Letters. The SSA also has a longstanding program of notifying employers of mismatches between names and SSNs on Forms W-2 (so-called "no-match letters"), but not all employers get letters, and those that do face no meaningful consequences if they ignore them. 

Legalized Aliens

If yet another amnesty for illegal aliens is enacted by Congress, the result will be to encourage more illegal immigration and to encourage voluntary returnees and reluctant returnees to remain in the U.S.he CIS report points out that "arguments for legalization should be made on their merits and not under the wholly specious presumptioU.Sn that those who are not legalized must then be hunted down and physically deported."

Deportation history

Four presidents have conducted deportations:

  • Beginning in 1931, both presidents Hoover and Franklin Roosevelt (FDR) initiated repatriation programs in order to protect American jobs during the Great Depression. This was termed repatriation because it was being done at the local level and by local authorities, as opposed to the federal government. Hoover’s goal was to have local authorities repatriate 500,000 illegal aliens.
  • Harry Truman initiated repatriation of 3.3 million Illegal aliens. Yet, only about 130,000 were removed by the government; the other 3.2 million self-deported. Once the repatriation program was announced, the United States government only had to deport about 4% of all who left. The rest voluntarily self-deported.
  • In June, 1954, President Eisenhower initiated what was called "Operation Wetback" (a non-derogatory term in those non-politically correct times.). Because political resistance was lower in California and Arizona, the roundup of aliens began there. Some 750 agents swept northward through agricultural areas with a goal of 1,000 apprehensions a day. By the end of July, over 50,000 aliens were caught in the two states. Another 488,000, fearing arrest, had fled the country. For more information, see:

    How Eisenhower solved illegal border crossings from Mexico, Christian Science Monitor, July 6, 2006.

    Ike and those pesky wetbacks, Fred Elbel on May 9, 2014.

From 1931, when Hoover began deportations, through Eisenhower's term in 1959, approximately 5.5 million illegal aliens left the United States. Yet fewer than 500,000 (less than 10%) were actually physically removed. The rest self-deported to voluntarily return home to reunite with their families. For more information, see:

Four American Presidents Conducted Deportations, D.C. Clothesline, November 16, 2015.

Immigration law enforcement

Much can be said about enforcement of immigration law because so little has been done. Here is a summary of federal immigration laws where the enforcement component has been effectively ignored or circumvented.

Immigration enforcement ignored at the federal level

1986: the Immigration and Reform Control Act (IRCA) Amnesty of 1986 - the "one-time only" blanket amnesty for some 2.8 million illegal aliens. The Act amnestied long-term illegal aliens who paid fees, passed criminal background checks, and took English classes and classes on US history and civics. This Act for the first time prohibited employment of illegal aliens. Enforcement was specified in the Act, but was virtually ignored. Indeed, in 2004, only three employers in the entire nation were fined for hiring illegal aliens.

1996: the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act was passed in the aftermath of the first World Trade Center bombing. This wide-ranging law included a requirement to develop an automated entry / exit system for foreign visitors in order to identify visa overstays. In fact, Congress mandated such a system five more times, including the USA Patriot Act - which required a biometric identification system, based on recommendations from the 9/11 Commission. This system has never been implemented.

2005: The REAL ID Act required state driver licenses to meet minimum standards in order to be used for federal purposes, including boarding airlines. The requirements included requiring proof of legal presence in the United States - especially important, because driver's licenses are "breeder documents" used by illegal aliens to embed themselves in society. The Act originally required state compliance by 2008, however, the deadline was postponed to 2011, then to 2013, and then to 2017.

As long as this deadline continues to be pushed back, states can continue to issue drivers licenses to illegal aliens. Indeed, in 2013, the Democratic Colorado legislature passed a law giving drivers licenses to illegal aliens. The Oregon legislature passed a similar law in 2013, however, Oregon citizens immediately began a referendum process to place the law on the ballot so that voters could decide for themselves whether to implement the law. 

2006: The Secure Fence Act required secure border fencing along approximately 650 miles of the US- Mexico border. The law specifically required “at least 2 layers of reinforced fencing”. To-date, less than 40 miles of mandated secure fencing have been built. Additional fencing has been built, but it is not secure, and consists of single-layer fencing and low vehicle barriers which allow people to cross. Indeed, much of the border still consists of a few strands of barbed-wire fence, which drug runners and illegal aliens can easily circumvent.

American Border Patrol has flown and cataloged the entire border. The results of their border survey and border fence inventory fly in the face of DHS Janet Napolitano's misleading statement that "Our borders have in fact never been stronger”.

Immigration enforcement ignored at the state level

Immigration enforcement is similarly ignored at the state level. The most egregious case in point is with sanctuary cities, where police are directed to ignore immigration law. This was the case for years in the Sanctuary City of Denver, even though sanctuary cities were banned in Colorado in 2006. Sadly, in 2013 the



Additional resources

Deportation Basics - Immigration Enforcement Works (Or Doesn’t) in Real Life, by W.D. Reasoner, Center for Immigration Studies, July, 2011.