Stemming the flow

At one point last year, illegal immigration was among the most important issues of the presidential campaign. The nation's reeling economy has not only shot past illegal immigration among the electorate's top concerns, it appears to be reducing the flow of foreign nationals across the nation's southern border.

A report released Thursday by the Pew Hispanic Center indicates there are fewer illegal immigrants in the United States than there were a year ago. The study doesn't address the cause of the decrease, but there's plenty of anecdotal and statistical evidence to suggest why.

For starters, illegals won't come here if they know there's no work.

The second part of the equation is ramped up law enforcement. Local and state governments have enacted new immigration laws and policies in response to constituents' demands, and the federal government has increased border security and raids on businesses following the collapse of amnesty legislation.

For example, an almost-formalized agreement between Las Vegas police and the federal government allows corrections officers to initiate deportation proceedings against illegals who are jailed on non-immigration offenses. Authorities in other metropolitan areas have entered similar partnerships with Immigration and Customs Enforcement to quickly rid communities of illegal immigrants who see fit to further break our laws.

And lawmakers in Nevada and elsewhere want to copy an Arizona statute that penalizes businesses for employing illegal immigrants, with the ultimate punishment of stripping their business licenses.

Several media outlets have reported an exodus of illegal immigrants from previously fast-growing, Western cities. Predominantly immigrant neighborhoods that were once bursting with residents now have plenty of apartment and rental home vacancies. Enrollment in the Clark County School District increased only 1 percent this year, its lowest rate of growth in years. Enrollment in several Arizona school districts has actually decreased.

No one wants to see the widespread hardships that have resulted from the country's economic woes. But they are proving, along with the law enforcement measures, that an effective way to keep out illegal immigrants is to deny them a reason to come here in the first place.