Attrition through Enforcement: A Rational Approach to Illegal Immigration

9 Pages Posted: 8 Jul 2008

See all articles by Kris W. Kobach

Kris W. Kobach

University of Missouri at Kansas City - School of Law


The public debate about illegal immigration in the United States has been based on the false dichotomy that the only choices are either total removal of all twelve to twenty million illegal aliens or total amnesty. This article proposes a concerted strategy of attrition through enforcement such that if the risk of detention, prosecution and involuntary removal increases, and the probability of obtaining employment decreases, the only rational decision for an illegal alien is to depart the United States on their own. A nation-wide strategy of attrition through enforcement would require, most importantly, employer use of the E-Verify system to verify the work authorization of new employees. Additional components include increasing the removal rate of aliens not convicted of serious felonies, increasing the rate of detention during removal proceedings to prevent absconding, increasing agreements between ICE and state agencies, ending sanctuary cities; and increasing the number of ICE interior enforcement agents. Attrition through enforcement works as has been shown to work in Arizona and through the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System. If implemented nationwide, it would do much to restore the rule of law in immigration and gradually reduce the number of illegal aliens in the United States.

Keywords: Immigration, Illegal immigrants, Aliens, Illegal aliens, Attrition through enforcement, Detention, Removal, E-Verify, ICE, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, NSEERS, National Security Entry-Exit Registration System

JEL Classification: J61, K10, K40, K42

Suggested Citation

Kobach, Kris W., Attrition through Enforcement: A Rational Approach to Illegal Immigration. Tulsa Journal of Comparative & International Law, Vol. 15, 2008, Available at SSRN:

Kris W. Kobach (Contact Author)

University of Missouri at Kansas City - School of Law ( email )

5100 Rockhill Road
Kansas City, MO 64110-2499
United States

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