Immigration study yields shocking conclusion: Consequences matter

Only an academic would be shocked by the research findings Charles Fain Lehman reports for the Washington Free Beacon.

Prosecuting illegal immigrants, or banning them from obtaining a visa, substantially reduces their likelihood of attempting to cross the border a second time, a new study concludes.

Although it only discusses a policy rolled out between 2008 and 2012, the study may have major implications for President Donald Trump’s zero tolerance approach to immigration enforcement, which still requires the prosecution of most childless border crossers.

The paper is a collaboration between two university professors and three researchers with the government-funded Institute for Defense Analyses. …

… The results are impressive. Before the implementation of the CDS, 22.6 percent of migrants were re-apprehended within three months of initial apprehension, and 28.1 percent were re-apprehended within 18 months. However, after CDS was fully implemented those rates fell to 14.4 and 17.5 percent respectively, an eight- and ten-percentage-point drop.

The effectiveness of the CDS is further supported by a survey of apprehended migrants, which found a stark decline in the number of people saying that they intended to try again once deposited back across the border. Eighty-eight percent intended to try to reenter in 2007; by 2013, that rate was 49 percent.

If its results are accurate, the study provides important insight as to what interventions are most effective at deterring illegal immigration. The number of people apprehended at the southwestern border is at record lows, a phenomenon that many have attributed to Mexico simultaneously experiencing an aging workforce and a steady growth in its wealth. What the paper suggests is that perhaps a shift to a more consequence-focused model of enforcement may also have played a role.

Mitch Kokai / Senior Political Analyst

Mitch Kokai is senior political analyst for the John Locke Foundation. He joined JLF in December 2005 as director of communications. That followed more than four years as chie...

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