A NARRATIVE is taking root among policy makers and opinion leaders that the illegal-immigration problem has been resolved and further concern over the issue is simply unnecessary. A New York Times op-ed by University of Southern California professor Dowell Myers exemplified this perspective when it began: “The immigration crisis that has roiled American politics for decades has faded into history.”
This idea of complete resolution is highly dubious. There is no doubt that the number of people sneaking across the southern U.S. border has declined significantly, and the total illegal population has dropped somewhat from the record high of several years ago. But there is little reason to conclude this is a permanent development ushering in a new migration paradigm for the United States. More likely, it is merely a pause brought on by the U.S. economic slump and other factors on both sides of the border.
Indeed, it could be argued that the current lull in illegal immigration is just the end of the beginning. The United States has made progress toward the first goal of a sensible immigration policy—namely, developing the means to make an enforcement policy stick. But the country has barely begun the process of crafting a comprehensive immigration policy that has a chance of actually working—or even deciding what such a comprehensive policy should be. Thus, the New York Times op-ed had it wrong, and this issue is certain to roil American politics for decades to come.