Planning the War on Immigrants

The war against immigrants and immigration is being fought on three main fronts: in Congress, in local and state government, and on the campaign trail. While the anti-immigration movement that is coursing through American politics is beyond the control of any individual or organization, the leading restrictionist policy institutes in Washington are setting the policy agenda of the anti-immigration forces at all levels of U.S. politics.

The Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) took the lead in developing this strategic framework. In April 2006 this restrictionist think tank published, “Attrition through Enforcement: A Cost-Effective Strategy to Shrink the Illegal Population,” which lays out the main components of a war of attrition against immigrants along with the estimated cost of a multi-front campaign to wear down immigrant residents and dissuade would-be immigrants.

“The purpose of attrition through enforcement,” according to CIS analyst Jessica Vaughn, “is to increase the probability that illegal aliens will return home without the intervention of immigration enforcement agencies. In other words, it encourages voluntary compliance with immigration laws through more robust interior law enforcement.”

Key components of the war of attrition include:

• Eliminating access to jobs through employer verification of Social Security numbers and immigration status.

• Ending misuse of Social Security and IRS numbers by immigrants in seeking employment, bank accounts, and driver’s licenses, and improved information sharing among key federal agencies, including the Internal Revenue Service, in the effort to identify unauthorized residents.

• Increasing federal, state, and local cooperation, particularly among law enforcement agencies.

• Reducing visa overstays through better tracking systems.

• Stepping up immigration raids.

• Passing state and local laws to discourage illegal immigrants from making a home in that area and to make it more difficult for immigrants to conceal their status.

CIS predicts that a $2 billion program would over five years substantially reduce immigration flows into the United States while dramatically increasing the one-way flow of immigrants back to their sending communities. According to CIS, the attrition war would require a $400 million annual commitment—”less than 1% of the president’s 2007 budget request for the Department of Homeland Security.”

Without driver’s licenses and without work because of employment-centered enforcement, immigrants will leave the country—as many as 1.5 million annually, predicts the CIS study

The “attrition through enforcement” is a strategic framework that builds on tactical approaches. To counter proposals for legalization, restrictionists successfully argued that any proposals for increased legal immigration—either through legalization or guestworker programs—should not be considered until the borders were secured and current immigration law fully enforced.

The “secure borders” and “enforcement first” frameworks for discussing immigration have been largely accepted by politicians of both parties, eliminating approval of any immigration reform initiatives that would address the plight of the 12 million-plus undocumented residents of the United States.

Over the past six months, the restrictionists have moved beyond “enforcement first” to the more aggressive “attrition through enforcement” strategy.

Rather than calling for a costly and morally repugnant mass deportation of millions of immigrants, the restrictionists have united behind a strategy aimed at wearing down the will of immigrants to live and work in the United States. Restrictionists increasingly argue that mass deportation will be unnecessary since an ever-increasing number of immigrants will “self-deport.”

All the Republican Party candidates have to some degree adopted a restrictionist agenda. Even John McCain, an original sponsor with Sen. Kennedy of comprehensive immigration reform, has said that he now supports an “enforcement first” approach.

FAIR is spearheading the attrition war on the state level, working closely with a new group called State Legislators for Legal Immigration. Formed by right-wing restrictionists in the Pennsylvania state legislature.

State Legislators for Legal Immigration and FAIR intend to take the war of attrition to every state. According to this restrictionist group, “Once the economic attractions of illegal jobs and taxpayer-funded public benefits are severed at the source, these illegal invaders will have no choice but to go home on their own.”

As this war against the country’s most vulnerable population deepens, the American people will need to ask themselves if they feel any safer or more secure, if they have more hope to find better-paying jobs, if their neighborhoods and town economies are more or less vibrant as immigrants leave, and if they are proud of themselves and their country.

See related materials:

Which Way Immigration Reform? Toward A Comprehensive Immigration Policy

http://americas.irc-online.org/am/3161

Summary from (Americas Program, Center for International Policy (CIP)