There is a thought-provoking debate on the current state of immigration enforcement, its political future and its effects at Center for Immigration Studies.

Participants are Mark Krikorian, of the Center for Immigration Studies, and UC San Diego professor and New America Foundation fellow Tomás Jiménez.

Some highlights:

Jiménez

“Attrition through enforcement” is made much more complicated by that fact that there are families involved. About 30% of all unauthorized families (1.96 million) contain children who are U.S. citizens. Should we count on these people to “self-deport” themselves and their U.S.-citizen children? It’s not likely to happen…

We have a free trade agreement with Mexico (NAFTA), which allows for the free movement of capital and goods. Yet we continue with a schizophrenic policy that fights the movement of labor that tends to follow capital and goods. It would make more sense to move our resources and energy from trying to restrict immigration to trying to manage it so that we maximize the benefits to all.

Krikorian

By starting to make it harder to employ illegal aliens, immigration enforcement is improving the prospects of all those who compete with illegals for work. This includes anyone marginal to the labor market: high school dropouts, of course, but also black and Latino men, teenagers in general, the elderly looking for part-time work, single moms who need flexible work hours, ex-convicts, recovering addicts and the physically and mentally disabled. Anyone whom employers might hesitate to hire — for whatever reasons, good or bad — starts to look better when the labor market is tighter. After all, the laws of supply and demand have not yet been repealed. We’ve seen evidence of this all over the country for some time now. Last month, the president of a steel company in Arizona, where the state government is cracking down on the employment of illegals, described how the new enforcement is forcing him to reach out to Americans and legal immigrants: “We’ve raised wages, competing for a diminishing supply (of workers). We’ve been on a campaign of quality improvement, training, scouring the waterfront, so to speak, for American vets, ex-offenders trying to find their way back into society.”

Jiménez

In a 2005 paper published in the Economic Journal, David Card from UC Berkeley finds that there is no relationship between the presence of low-skilled immigrants and the wages of low-skilled U.S.-born workers. Card concludes, “New evidence from the 2000 census reconfirms the main lesson of earlier studies: Although immigration has a strong effect on relative supplies of different skill groups, local labor market outcomes of low-skilled natives are not much affected by these relative supply shocks.” Translation: There is no evidence of competition between low-skilled immigrants and those who you assume compete with them.

Don’t take my word for it – go read it all.