Securing the Homeland Through Immigration Law Enforcement
Statement of Mark Krikorian
Executive Director of the Center for Immigration Studies
prepared for the House Judiciary Committee
Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security, and Claims
"Department of Homeland Security Transition:
Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement"
April 10, 2003
Since the Islamist terror attacks of September 11, 2001, the first two parts of our immigration filter have seen improvements. Increased rigor in the consideration of visa applications at our consulates abroad, and progress toward implementing an effective entry/exit tracking system at the border have marked real steps forward. Although much remains to be done, the problems are being tackled.
The third filter is in much worse shape. Starting in 1993, with the Border Patrol's Operation Hold the Line, in El Paso, and accelerated by the immigration bill passed by Congress in 1996, the focus of immigration law enforcement was the southern border. Important as this was, it was not matched by similar improvements in interior enforcement. In fact, quite the opposite. For instance, when the INS conducted raids during Georgia's Vidalia onion harvest in 1998, thousands of illegal aliens abandoned the fields to avoid arrest. Within hours, employers and politicians registered their displeasure, and the enforcement action was discontinued.
In response, the INS developed a "kinder, gentler" means of enforcing the law, which fared no better. Rather than conduct raids on specific employers, Operation Vanguard sought to identify illegal workers at all meatpacking plants in Nebraska through audits of their personnel records. The INS found about 4,000 workers, out of about 24,000, who appeared to be illegal, and scheduled interviews to determine their status. Three thousand of these workers turned out to be illegal aliens, and never showed up for their interviews, with the remaining 1,000 able to correct errors in their records.
Local law enforcement officials were very pleased with the program: "It's an excellent program," said Grand Island Police Chief Kyle Hetrick. "It's a positive thing. It's effective." Despite the initial promise of this new enforcement strategy, employers and politicians actively criticized the very idea of enforcing the law: "It was ill-advised for Operation Vanguard to start out in a state with such low employment and an already big problem with a shortage of labor," said a former Nebraska governor who had been hired to lobby for an end to immigration law enforcement. As a result, plans to expand the program to other states and other industries were scrapped and the INS official who developed the program was forced into early retirement.Neglect of interior enforcement. The INS got the message and developed a new interior enforcement policy that gave up on reasserting control over immigration and focused almost entirely on the important, but narrow, issues of criminal aliens and smugglers. As INS policy director Robert Bach told the New York Times in a 2000 story entitled "I.N.S. Is Looking the Other Way As Illegal Immigrants Fill Jobs": "It is just the market at work, drawing people to jobs, and the INS has chosen to concentrate its actions on aliens who are a danger to the community."
This neglect of interior enforcement has helped to create a very large illegal population, now estimated by the Census Bureau at more than eight million. And, contrary to Prof. Bach's claims, lax enforcement of immigration laws has become a "danger to the community" by increasing America's vulnerability to terrorists from overseas.
Fortunately, today there is reason for optimism that interior enforcement will be reinvigorated. When the service and enforcement functions of the former Immigration and Naturalization Service were separated, the Bush Administration further split enforcement into two parts, border and interior enforcement (unfortunately, the first filter -- the visa process -- was allowed to remain in the State Department). Though somewhat unexpected, this was a very sensible move, given the importance of interior enforcement and the low priority it had been given in the past. And unlike the academics who had held top positions in the prior arrangement of INS, this time the immigration enforcement components of the new Homeland Security Department, including the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, are headed by people with genuine law-enforcement backgrounds.
With this new arrangement, our nation can finally work toward restoring order to our anarchic immigration system, by focusing resources and attention on all three filters in our immigration-control system.
Why Improve Interior Enforcement?
There are a number of reasons why interior enforcement must be improved. First, in a nation built on the rule of law, allowing any set of laws, including those pertaining to immigration, to be routinely flouted undermines the very foundation of our Republic. More specifically, there are significant costs to the U.S. economy and American taxpayers from allowing millions of people to live in the United States illegally.
Finally, there is the risk from foreign-born terrorists. In a study completed last year by the Center for Immigration Studies, we found that 22 of 48 foreign-born al Qaeda-linked terrorists who were involved in terrorism in the United States between 1993 and 2001 had committed significant violations of immigration laws prior to taking part in terrorism. Thus, strictly enforcing immigration laws must be a key component of our anti-terrorism efforts.
In many cases terrorists lived, worked, opened bank accounts, and received driver's licenses with little or no difficulty. They operated for extended periods within the United States while they were in violation of immigration laws. For example, of the 48 terrorists in the study, at least 13 had overstayed a temporary visa at some point.
In addition to overstaying visas, we found that terrorists have violated immigration laws in a number of other ways. Some terrorists have engaged in fraudulent marriages to American citizens, such as Fadil Abdelgani, who took part in the plot to bomb New York City landmarks in 1993, and Khalid Abu al Dahab, who raised money and helped recruit new members for al Qaeda from within the United States. Terrorists also violated immigration laws by providing false information on their applications for permanent residence, such as Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, who inspired several terrorist plots. Still other terrorists have violated the law by working illegally in the United States; at least eight terrorists held jobs for extended periods while living in the country illegally before taking part in terrorism, including those involved in the 1993 World Trade Center attack, the plot to bomb New York landmarks, and the Millennium plot. Because such a large percentage of foreign-born terrorists violated immigration law, enforcing the law would be extremely helpful in disrupting and preventing terrorist attacks.
Tolerating illegal immigration facilitates terrorism. Of course, vast majority of aliens who violate immigration laws are not terrorists. However, allowing a large illegal population to reside in the United States facilitates terrorism for two reasons. First, it has created a large underground industry that furnishes illegals with fraudulent identities and documents that terrorists can (and have) tapped into. Several of the 9/11 terrorists were assisted in getting their Virginia driver's licenses from someone who specialized in helping run-of-the-mill illegal aliens obtain them.Second, the existence of a huge illegal population creates a general contempt or disregard for immigration law. Although the general public may still want the law enforced, the scale of illegal immigration creates a tacit acceptance by law enforcement, policymakers, and even immigration-enforcement personnel themselves. With millions of illegal immigrants already in the country, and with immigration laws widely flouted, it is perhaps easy to understand why the immigration inspector at Miami's airport allowed Mohammed Atta back into the country in January 2001 even though he had overstayed his visa on his last visit and had abandoned his application to change status to vocational student by leaving the country.
The release from INS detention of 1993 World Trade Center Bomber Ahmad Ajaj or Brooklyn subway bomber Gazi Ibrahim Abu Mezer (or, more recently, sniper John Lee Malvo) also does not seem so outrageous when one considers that immigration law is routinely violated and millions of people are allowed to live in the country illegally. Tolerating mass illegal immigration is by no means the only factor increasing the chance that terrorists will successfully enter and remain in the country, but by not enforcing immigration law we have made life easier for the large number of terrorists who have broken immigration laws.
Other reasons for interior enforcement. Of course, combating terror is not the only reason to enforce the immigration law. We know from a variety of sources that illegal aliens are overwhelming unskilled, with more than three-fourths lacking even a high school education. Each year several hundred thousand illegal aliens without a high school education settle in the United States. Allowing in so many unskilled workers creates very significant economic problems. The economic goal of a modern society such as ours is to create a large middle class through high-wage, capital-intensive jobs exhibiting growing labor productivity and aiming toward a flatter distribution of income. Mass unskilled immigration, a very large share of which is illegal, subverts these goals. In its 1997 report, the National Research Council concluded that by increasing the supply of unskilled workers, immigration was responsible for close to half the decline in relative wages for high school dropouts from 1980 to 1994, translating into lost wages for those dropouts amounting to about 5 percent of their incomes.
From the point of view of employers, this seems like a desirable state of affairs, since lower labor costs mean higher profits, and for consumers it should mean lower prices as well. Of course, for the 10 percent of our workers who lack a high school education and who are already the lowest-paid workers, this reduction is quite harmful. But, putting aside the impact on the working poor, the long-term consequences of illegal immigration for the economy are also harmful.
There is strong evidence that in industries as diverse as construction, garment manufacturing, and agriculture an increasing reliance on unskilled illegal-alien labor is slowing productivity gains and causing the United States to fall behind its international competitors. At least 80 percent of illegal aliens lack a high-school education and this unskilled immigration acts as a subsidy by artificially holding down labor costs by increasing the supply of labor. Businesses tend to want subsidies and often grow dependent on them. But like any subsidy, illegal immigration prevents innovation and causes the industry in question to lose its competitive edge in the long term. Reducing illegal immigration and allowing wages to rise naturally would not only be good for the working poor, it would make for a more productive economy. Employers, in response to upward pressure on wages, would adopt more productive methods, such as dried-on-the-vine raisin production or greater use of pre-fabricated material in construction. We can reduce illegal immigration secure in the knowledge that it will not spark inflation because unskilled workers account for such a tiny fraction of total economic output. High school dropouts account for less than 4 percent of total output in the United States, so even if wages rose substantially for these workers, the effect on prices would be very small.
Illegal immigration is also a problem for public coffers. In addition to reducing wages for the working poor and hindering productivity gains, there is another problem with illegal immigration -- it imposes significant fiscal costs, an extremely important concern at a time of huge budget shortfalls in almost every state. As a practical matter, the middle and upper classes in the United States pay almost all of the taxes. The poor -- immigrant or native -- generally consume significantly more in public services than they pay in taxes. Because illegal aliens are overwhelming unskilled, this results in their having much lower incomes and tax payments. Moreover, while illegal aliens are not supposed to use most welfare programs, in fact they often make use of them anyway. Even if the immigrant himself is not eligible because of legal status, immigrant families can still receive benefits on behalf of their U.S.-born children, whose welfare eligibility is the same as any other native-born American.
In research done by the Center for Immigration Studies, we estimated that of households headed by illegal aliens from Mexico (the largest component of the illegal population), 31 percent used at least one major welfare program. This is lower than the 37 percent estimated for households headed by legal Mexican immigrants. But it is much higher than the 15 percent estimated for natives. Significant use of public services coupled with much lower tax payments means that illegal immigrants almost certainly create a net fiscal drain.
In 1997 the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) estimated that immigrant households consume between $11 billion and $20 billion more in public services than they pay in taxes each year. This net fiscal drain (taxes paid minus services used) is almost entirely the result of unskilled immigrants. The NAS estimated that an immigrant with less than a high school education imposes a net fiscal drain of $89,000 on public coffers during his lifetime. This burden on taxpayers would, of course, become even worse if these immigrants were legalized, because they would remain largely poor, given their limited education levels, but they would become directly eligible for welfare programs. From the point of view of taxpayers, reducing illegal immigration by enforcing the law would almost certainly be desirable.
Making Interior Enforcement Effective
What steps are necessary to enable the new Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement to play its vital part in immigration control?
Tracking System for Temporary Visa Holders. There is a longstanding problem that the federal government often has no idea whether foreign visitors have left when their temporary visas expire. In addition, it often has no idea where foreign citizens live while their visas are still valid. A number of terrorists have been tourists and business travelers, and it would be very difficult to track such individuals within the United States. Even in the current environment, it is unrealistic to expect all foreign visitors to submit their passports every time they check into a hotel and to expect hotels to report that information. Currently, foreign travelers are required to write down their destination upon entering the United States, but no effort is made to verify the information; in fact, two of the 9/11 jihadists listed "Marriott Hotel, New York" as their destination.
The Special Registration system in place for visitors from selected, mostly Middle Eastern, countries is a valuable first step toward a comprehensive entry/exit tracking system, but it would probably not be feasible to apply it in its current form to the millions of alien visitors from all countries. But it would be possible to keep such close tabs on all foreign citizens residing here for extended periods of time who are affiliated with an American institution responsible for their whereabouts. Such a system makes sense because many of these long-term visitors (here from one to six years, or more) reside here for a long time in a legal status, whereas short-term visitors are less likely to have the time to hatch sophisticated plots before their visas expire. Although short-term tourists and business travelers, who are not attached to any American institution, make up the majority of non-immigrants, the number of long-term visa holders requiring oversight is still quite large. In 2001, there were more than 1 million foreign students and exchange visitors admitted (including their spouses and young children), as well as almost 1.4 million long-term foreign workers (including family), each more than double the number admitted just five years previously. Tracking these individuals through their American institutions is both desirable and possible. If they leave their schools, jobs, or otherwise violate the terms of their admission, we would know immediately, and then we could send out an investigator while the trail was still warm.Tracking foreign students -- and others. One of the largest single categories of long-term temporary visitors is foreign students (admitted on F1 and M1 visas). A number of terrorists originally entered on student visas, including Eyad Ismoil, a conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, and 9/11 hijacker Hani Hanjour, and both were in the country illegally when they committed their crimes. Ismoil dropped out after three semesters and remained in the United States illegally, while Hanjour never even attended class. Both Khalid Abu al Dahab and Wadih el Hage originally came to the United States on student visas, later married Americans, and became naturalized citizens.
The 1996 immigration law mandated that the INS develop a computerized tracking system for foreign students to replace the failed paper-based system. Unfortunately, that system did not moved beyond the pilot stage because of scorched-earth opposition from universities and colleges. Institutions opposed it, and continue to oppose the current Student Exchange and Visitor Information System (SEVIS), fearing the extra administrative burden, but mainly because they do not like the idea of treating foreign students differently from their American counterparts. But given the very real threats we face, tracking students makes perfect sense. Ideally such a system would provide the INS with real-time information verifying a student's enrollment and immediately notify the INS if the student drops out or otherwise is not honoring the terms of his visa. The border security bill signed by the president last May has accelerated the development of a workable student-tracking system, but as this subcommittee heard last week, there is still a long way to go.
Despite the current difficulties faced by SEVIS, this strategy should not be limited only to foreign students. There are an additional million temporary workers, trainees, and intra-company transferees who can and should be included in such a system. Expanding the new tracking system to cover all long-term non-immigrants is necessary to ensure that the system is as comprehensive as possible. INS enforcement could then follow up with the sponsoring employer or other institution as soon as it learns that the alien violated the terms of the visa.
Names of visa violators should be in the national crime database. In January of 2002, the INS announced that it was going to add to the FBI's National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database the names of more than 300,000 illegal aliens who have been ordered deported, but whose departure the INS cannot verify. This is certainly a good start, but once a well-functioning entry/exit system is in place, the names, photos, and fingerprints of all those who overstay or otherwise violate the terms of their admission to the U.S. should be added to the criminal database. In that way, if they are ever arrested for a crime or even pulled over in a traffic stop they can be held by local police and then turned over to the BICE agents. This could become a key component of interior enforcement. With 3 to 4 million visa overstayers living in the United States, there is no question that tens of thousands of them have some encounter with the authorities each year. Traffic stops and arrests are a significant opportunity to apprehend those in the country illegally, and we should take full advantage of them.
While adding visa violators to the criminal database would help reduce illegal immigration, one may still wonder if it would ever be useful against terrorists. In fact, two of the 9/11 hijackers were pulled over in traffic stops in months preceding the attacks. In the spring of 2001, the plot's ringleader, Mohammed Atta, received a traffic ticket in Broward County, Florida, for driving without a license. He had, by this time, overstayed his visa on his previous visit to the United States between June of 2000 and January of 2001, though the INS at Miami International Airport allowed him back into the country. Had a system of carefully tracking overstays and placing their names in the criminal database been in place, then we might have been able to apprehend Atta and perhaps avert the 9/11 attacks. Although he had not overstayed his visa, Ziad Samir Jarrah, who was on board United Airlines Flight 93 that crashed in Pennsylvania on 9/11, was issued a speeding ticket on September 9 in Maryland for driving 95 miles an hour in a 60-mile-per-hour zone. Thus, even the most sophisticated terrorists in American history seem to have run afoul of the law prior to carrying out their plans.
For BICE to quickly take custody of visa violators detained by police, it would need many more agents assigned to interior enforcement and much more detention space. By adding the names of visa overstays to the criminal database, the INS would in effect enlist the help of thousands of local law enforcement officers.
Enforcing the ban on hiring illegal aliens. The centerpiece of any new interior enforcement strategy has to be a resumption in enforcement of the ban on hiring illegal aliens. While worksite enforcement, as it is commonly called, may not seem to be important to national security at first glance, it is, in fact, vital to reducing the terrorist threat. Gaining control of the border between crossing points (now the job of the Homeland Security Department's Bureau of Customs and Border Protection) is only possible if BICE is able to dramatically reduce the number of illegal job seekers trying to sneak into the United States by making it extremely difficult for them to find work.
As already indicated, the estimated 8 million illegals now living in the country have also created a vast market and infrastructure for fraudulent documents. The existence of widespread fraud can only make it easier for terrorists to operate in the United States. In addition, it would be much harder for terrorists who overstay their visas to blend into normal life if finding a job is made more difficult.At least eight of the terrorists in our study worked in the United States illegally before being arrested. Of course, terrorists could still come with large sums of cash and try to live undetected, but doing so would be much harder if getting a job is much more difficult.
Worksite enforcement must be made effective. There are two steps that are needed to make worksite enforcement effective. First, a national computerized system that allows employers to verify the work-eligibility of new hires needs to be implemented. Employers would submit the name, date of birth, Social Security number (SSN), or alien registration number to the INS for each new hire. This information is already collected for I-9 forms, but is not used for enforcement. After an instant check of its database, the employers would then receive an authorization number indicating that the person is allowed to work in the United States. The authorization number would provide the employer an ironclad defense against the charge that they knowingly hired an illegal alien. Tests of such systems have generally been well received by employers.
Document fraud, of course, is widespread, but a computerized system would be a key tool in uncovering it. For example, a valid SSN that is linked to a different name and submitted to immigration authorities, or a SSN and name that show up among numerous employers across the country, would both be indications that a worker is trying to skirt the law. BICE could develop procedures to identify potential problems of this kind. When a potential problem is identified, special agents would then go out to the employer and examine all the paperwork for the employee, perhaps conducting an interview with the worker and determine the source of the problem.
Dramatically increase the number of investigators. Investigators from BICE are charged with such tasks as worksite enforcement, anti-smuggling efforts, and combating document fraud. Before the reorganization, there were only about 2,000 agents assigned to interior enforcement for the entire country. This number must be increased dramatically. Also, there were only the full-time equivalent of 300 INS inspectors devoted to worksite enforcement year-round, whose job it is to enforce the ban on hiring the five or six million illegal immigrants in the workforce. If the number of investigators was increased to the levels necessary, they could begin to visit employers identified by the verification system as having a potential problem, and additionally could randomly visit worksites to see that employers were filing the paperwork for each worker as required by law. Those employers found to be knowingly hiring illegals would be made to pay stiff fines.
It is not just in the area of worksite enforcement that additional investigators could be put to work. The system of tracking students and perhaps other visitors requires that there be enough agents to locate those identified by the tracking system as having violated their visas. If we create a tracking system, for example, but there are no agents to investigate those who stop working or attending class, then a tracking system is almost meaningless. Failure to develop such a system means that millions of illegal immigrants will continue to work and live in the United States facing little or no penalty. Not only does this make a mockery of the rule of law, harm the working poor, and impose significant costs on taxpayers, it also exposes the country to significant security risks.
Employment verification as a proxy for comprehensive registration. Most of the recommendations outlined above have dealt with temporary visa holders or efforts to reduce illegal immigration. More effective monitoring is also needed of permanent residents. A number of militant Islamic terrorists have been legal immigrants, including Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, Siddig Ibrahim Siddig Ali (ringleader of a plot to bomb New York landmarks) and Mahmud Abouhalima, a leader of the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center.
Until the early 1980s all non-citizens living in the United States were required to register annually their whereabouts with the INS. This practice should probably not be revived in that form. Potential terrorists cannot be expected to dutifully send in post cards with their addresses. However, the employment verification system outlined above could be a very effective tool in locating non-citizen legal immigrants. This is especially important when a person is placed on the watch list after he has entered the country. At present, there is often no way for immigration authorities to know where that individual lives; but the employment verification process would provide them with the last known employer for green card holders who work. Thus, if it became necessary to arrest, or undertake surveillance of a non-citizen, his last known employer would be a place to start. The verification system would, in effect, be a means of alien registration, at least for those resident aliens who work.
Prevent illegals from putting down roots. One change that seems obvious is to expand the concept of employer sanctions to other aspects of life. In other words, we should require verification of legal status not only when a person starts a new job but also when a person applies for a driver's license, and a bank account, and a mortgage, and college admission. Bank accounts are especially important because they make it easier for people who work illegally in the United States to cash paychecks and transfer money abroad. Thus, by permitting illegal aliens to open bank accounts we make it easier to be an illegal alien, which in turn can only increase illegal immigration. This is the unintended consequence of the U.S. Treasury Department's explicit policy of giving a green light to banks to accept Mexico's consular registration card, a document useful within the United States only to illegal aliens.
Another key is to prevent illegals from getting driver's licenses. A number of the 9/11 terrorists were able to get licenses and open bank accounts with little difficulty. Virginia, which issued eight drivers licenses to 9/11 terrorists, only required that a third party attest to the fact that the license applicant is a state resident. This is a clear invitation for illegal aliens and terrorists to obtain driver's licenses.
All states must require birth certificates and other supporting documents for licenses. Unfortunately, a number of states do not carefully verify identity or eligibility for a license, and in fact some states now explicitly allow illegal aliens to get licenses. Not only do licenses make it easier to open bank accounts, licenses are also helpful when accessing government documents, looking for a job, renting motor vehicles, and of course boarding commercial airliners. If we are serious about reducing illegal immigration and protecting the country from terrorists, then doing a great deal more to prevent illegals from opening bank accounts and obtaining drivers licenses will have to be part of our efforts.
Amnesties for illegal aliens have helped, not hindered, terrorists. The existence of a large illegal population clearly creates a host of problems for the United States. Instead of enforcing the law, some have suggested giving green cards to the illegals, thereby defining away the illegal population and simplifying the work of interior enforcement. Superficially appealing as this may be, it would not solve the problem of future illegal immigration; after the last amnesty in 1986, the 2.7 million illegals who were given green cards were entirely replaced by new illegal aliens within less than 10 years. While the events of 9/11 significantly reduced political support for what had been growing momentum to grant amnesty to Mexican and perhaps other illegals, the idea continues to be suggested; some have even argued after 9/11 that granting amnesty would be helpful to national security because it would allow law enforcement to know who is in the country. For this reason some amnesty advocates have even taken to calling it a "registration" of illegal aliens. However, in the past, amnesties have helped terrorists, and not impeded them in any way.
Mahmud "The Red" Abouhalima, an Egyptian illegal alien working as a cab driver in New York, received amnesty under the 1986 Immigration and Reform and Control Act, falsely claiming to be an agricultural worker. Given limited resources, it was not possible to investigate or even verify the stories of the millions who applied for amnesty. As a result, the vast majority who applied for the amnesty were approved, including huge numbers of fraudulent applicants. Issuing Mahmud Abouhalima a green card facilitated his terrorism because he could then work at any job he wished and was able to travel to and from the United States freely. In fact, according the October 4, 1993, issue of Time magazine, it was only after he received his green card in 1990 that he made several trips to Pakistan, where he received combat training. Thus, the 1986 amnesty is what made his training by al Qaeda possible. Had Abouhalima not been given permanent residency, he would not have been able to travel abroad and become a trained terrorist.The case of Mohammed Salameh, who rented the truck used in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, shows why an amnesty will not hinder terrorists. Salameh's application for amnesty was denied because he was not as adept at making fraudulent claims as was Abouhalima. The INS was able to do its job in his case and rejected his application on its face. However, because there was no mechanism in place to force people who are denied amnesty to leave the country, he continued to live and work in the United States illegally and ultimately take part in terrorism. Thus, in the past terrorists who applied for amnesty either received it, making their operations easier, or, when turned down, simply continued to engage in terrorism unhindered.
In sum, the last amnesty only helped terrorists and did nothing to hinder those involved in the first World Trade Center bombing. If we are to have an amnesty, then at the very least we first need to devote vastly more resources to interior enforcement, including detention space and INS agents assigned to investigate applications and to detain and remove those found ineligible.
Although the national security, economic, and fiscal arguments against illegal immigration are overwhelming, many people still might argue that there is little that can be done about this situation. In fact, illegal immigration isn't nearly as intractable a problem as it may seem. The INS estimated several years ago that each year roughly 150,000 illegal aliens leave the country on their own, another 200,000 or so get green cards as part of the normal "legal" immigration process, 50,000 illegals are deported, and about 20,000 die. In sum, at least 400,000 people leave the illegal-alien population each year.
Of course, something like 800,000 new illegals arrive annually, and thus the total illegal population continues to grow. But the numbers leaving the illegal population are still huge, and we can use this fact to our advantage. If we significantly reduce the number of new illegal aliens entering the country and increase the number who go home, even if only modestly, we can engineer an annual decline in the illegal-alien population, allowing the problem to become progressively smaller over time through attrition.
Nor is this mere supposition. The special-registration process applies to nationals of more than two dozen countries, among which Pakistan has the largest illegal-alien population in the U.S., estimated to have been 26,000 in January 2000. Thousands of those illegal aliens have left the country voluntarily, without having to be deported, because of the special registration requirements. We can expect that any other increases in interior enforcement efforts would yield similar multiplier effects, with each illegal alien actually apprehended causing many more illegals to leave on their own.
Strict enforcement of the law overseas, at the border, and in the interior of the United States can help restore order to our anarchic immigration system and is one of the most effective means we have of reducing the threat from foreign-born terrorists. Failure to develop a vigorous interior enforcement system will result in the continual increase of the illegal alien population, imposing significant costs on unskilled American workers, taxpayers, and, in the long-run, American business. By enforcing immigration laws we can improve the lives of the working poor, save taxpayers money, and help protect the safety of our homes and families.Rich Stana, General Accounting Office, Director of Homeland Security and Justice IssuesRich Stana, General Accounting Office, Director of Homeland Security and Justice Issues