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Immigration continues to rock the nation

July 31, 2008 | 11:10 am


The issue of illegal immigration is continuing to rock the nation. Yesterday, a study reported that the number of illegal immigrants in the United States is falling, protests took place in San Francisco over the city's alleged sanctuary policy, and the Government announced a new scheme which invites illegal immigrants to turn themselves in for deportation.

A report yesterday indicating a marked decline in the number of illegal immigrants in the U.S. fueled a widening national debate over the Bush administration's policy of immigration enforcement through aggressive workplace raids, writes Nicole Gaouette from Washington.

The largest such enforcement action was in May in Postville, Iowa, where federal immigration agents descended on a meatpacking plant and arrested nearly 400 workers later detained in a building used to house cattle.

The findings have given fuel to the argument that the method of "attrition" -- making life as difficult as possible for immigrants living in the United States illegally -- might be working.

The report from the Center for Immigration Studies, a Washington-based think tank, says that the number of illegal immigrants fell about 11% between last August and May, from 12.5 million to 11.2 million.

The study was based on an analysis of census data and concludes that if that rate of decline is sustained, the number of illegal immigrants will be halved in five years.

Over in San Francisco, a small group of Minuteman Project activists demonstrated Wednesday against the city's sanctuary policy, but their call for Mayor Gavin Newsom's ouster was drowned out by hundreds of chanting immigration rights supporters, reports Maria L. LaGanga.

Jim Gilchrist, founder of the anti-illegal-immigrant group, stepped inside City Hall, where he told reporters that Newsom should resign because of "his endorsement and support of sanctuary city status that led to the horrific slayings of the Bologna family."

Gilchrist said his organization was now going to begin targeting sanctuary cities nationwide

Meanwhile, federal authorities are launching a pilot program next month to allow noncriminal illegal immigrants with final deportation orders to surrender rather than face possible arrest and detention, reports Anna Gorman from Los Angeles.

Two Southern California cities -- Santa Ana and San Diego -- are among five cities nationwide where immigrants can turn themselves in from Aug. 5 to Aug. 22.

Certain immigrants who do so will be given up to 90 days before being required to leave the United States. And in some cases, the agency will pay for the flight for the illegal immigrants and their relatives.

Activists on both sides of the immigration debate expressed skepticism.

Read Anna Gorman's full story, "U.S. to launch program allowing illegal immigrants not wanted in crimes to turn themselves in."

For more stories on immigration, click here.

Photo: Isaac Chang of the Minuteman Project, left, argues with a counter-protester at a rally in San Francisco by the group to demand the resignation of the mayor. Credit: Jeff Chiu / Associated Press