McClellan: Immigration solution remains far from reality - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

McClellan: Immigration solution remains far from reality

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Mike McClellan is a Gilbert resident and former English teacher at Dobson High School in Mesa.

Posted: Wednesday, May 2, 2012 9:47 am | Updated: 6:34 am, Fri May 4, 2012.

It’s naïve to believe SB 1070 hasn’t had an effect on the illegal immigrant population in Arizona. It’s equally foolish to believe that the law has any kind of larger effect.

So let’s stipulate that SB 1070 has led to a decreased illegal immigrant population. Let’s also stipulate that to determine just how much of a decrease is almost impossible to determine. And let’s stipulate that it has had little effect on increased border security.

No doubt that SB 1070’s “attrition through enforcement” has worked. Illegal immigrants have left the state in part because of the fear the law put into them. We’ve lost thousands over the last several years. And what SB 1070 does or was rumored to do caused many to leave.

But no one should argue that SB 1070 by itself led to that exodus. In fact, as the government has noted, illegal immigrants began to leave the state prior to the bill’s passage. And illegal immigration to the state had already slowed by the time the bill became law.

Because the bill became law in the midst of a recession, the effect of that law is problematic. Many of the sectors of our economy most damaged by the recession — housing, tourism and the food industry — were the same areas where we’d find a preponderance of illegal immigrants working.

So to be fair, we’d have to conclude that the law and the economy were factors in the diminished illegal population.

Beyond that, however, proponents are on shaky ground.

SB 1070 has had zero effect on border security, what most who object to the status quo say they are concerned with.

No one really believes that drug cartels have slowed because of the bill’s passage into law. Both Cochise County and Pinal County sheriffs regularly bemoan the number of smugglers coming through their counties.

And those smugglers don’t just continue to move drugs through our state; despite the falling numbers, many of those coyotes still bring a sizable number of illegals to or through Arizona. In fact, when we speak of illegal immigrants, we’re really talking about two groups — those who’ve been here and those who try to come here. SB 1070 only really addresses the former.

So what about the ones trying to come here? Besides the economy slowing the immigration, those who oppose Obama would have to admit that some of his policies have had an effect: increased numbers of border patrols, drones flying the Texas and Arizona borders, deporting illegal immigrants in record numbers.

And yet, because his administration opposes SB 1070, Obama is somehow for “open borders.”

The reality, however, is this: Until we continue to strengthen our borders and find a workable solution to those currently living in the U.S., the immigration problem won’t be solved.

That solution, no matter how objectionable to some, will inevitably include some path to legal residency for otherwise law-abiding illegal residents.

Only the most rabid enforcement-only types would deny that.

Unfortunately, those folks — along with their comrades on the opposite side — currently have a stranglehold on the issue. And this is an election year.

Which means little will be done any time soon.

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