How Australia Stopped Illegal Immigration

 

Boat arrivals_20976_image003Just two years ago, Australians were told that “push factors,” not our government’s policies, were responsible for the increase in refugee boats arriving on our shores. Fortunately, the Australian people elected a new government with new policies designed to “Stop the Boats.” The results are to your right. And no, 2014 and 2015 aren’t lacking data: they properly indicate that there were, in effect, no more boats.

To give you some background, a significant number of boats carrying “asylum seekers” began arriving in Australia in 1999. Concerned, John Howard’s government instituted a policy of immediately detaining all unauthorised arrivals before transferring them to Australian-run detention centers in nearby nations (the “Pacific Solution”), as well as creating a new visa category for those already here that could not be converted into permanent residence status. Along with a high profile detention effort (The Tampa Affair) in 2001, the message got out and the arrivals dried up. In 2002, there was just one boat with one person.

Over the next few years, the smugglers occasionally probed. Six boats arrived with 60 people in 2006. But the policy was controversial. We were turning our backs on asylum seekers (of course, very few had come directly from their place of alleged persecution).

In 2007, a new, more compassionate government was elected. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and the Labor Party closed down the Pacific detention centers (which, by then, has a total of one — 1! — inmate) and eased up on policy. Predictably, the boats returned. Only seven in its first full year of government, with 161 people. But in 2009, it was 60 boats with over 2,500 people. In 2012 it was 278 boats with 17,000 people. And during those few years, an estimated 1,200 would-be arrivals — four percent of the total — drowned at sea.

The Labor government insisted that their policy wasn’t to blame. It was, instead, “push factors” beyond its control. Events overseas had generated waves of displaced people, so it was only natural that the numbers had gone up. The suspicious coincidence between policy changes and arrivals statistics meant nothing. I personally saw and heard dozens of smart people — journalists, judges, academics — on TV and radio repeating this line.

The Labor government was in turmoil over internal dissension and obvious policy failures. The opposition Liberals — Australia’s conservative party — said that, if elected, they’d fix the boat arrivals. They promised to get them down to near zero in their first term (three years here). They’d re-introduce the “Pacific Solution,” temporary visas, and boat “turn backs” (when safe to do so, they said).

Panicked, the Labor government changed Prime Minister (again!) a few months before the election, and started to re-open the offshore detention facilities (it took time; they’d fallen into disrepair). But it was too late. Led by Tony Abbott, the Liberals took power in September 2013 and introduced its policies — except for the temporary protection visas, which it couldn’t get through Parliament — with a twist: it appointed a senior military officer to run the program, declared it an “operational matter” that only warranted limited, occasional press briefings, which pulled the whole thing out of the news.

Now, look at the graphs again. To my knowledge, only one boat has arrived since 2014. The smugglers have largely stopped trying. There were eight attempts in the last year, resulting in eight tow-backs.

Moral: it is not just push factors. You don’t reduce illegal immigration by increasing the number of legal places; in these days of cheap travel and millions seeking a better life, demand is effectively infinite. Instead, you have to make it thoroughly not worth the while of the would-be entrants. Don’t let them stay, and make it clear that they will get no return on the money they pay the smugglers (boat passages to Australia were around $10,000 a head).

Incidentally, on a per capita basis, under the present “heartless” government, Australia accepts more genuinely assessed asylum seekers on a per capita basis than any other country.

There are 74 comments.

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  1. Member

    Congratulations Australia, you got it right.

    Europe is being invaded. It’s already strained welfare states cannot sustain this. Eventually the people will rebel against the elites and there will be hell to pay. Nations have a right to control their borders and decide immigration.

    US are you watching this? We need a fence NOW.  We are one upheaval away from the scenes on the Macedonian border being Texas or New Mexico. Despite the happy talk from those who sell the “immigration is down” narrative.

    Get right with this GOP and major candidates or you will have hell to pay.

    • #1
    • August 28, 2015 at 2:29 am
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  2. Reagan

    Keep in mind that as an island nation it is easier to secure the border (despite its massive size) than in a situation like America. Not saying it can’t, or shouldn’t, be done in the US, but the policies required here are not mirror images of those instituted in Australia.

    • #2
    • August 28, 2015 at 4:09 am
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  3. Thatcher
    Stephen Dawson Post author

    Yes, I’m not saying that the experience is directly transferable. This is not just a story on how to deal with unwanted immigration, but one of how people will deny the bleeding obvious: that even immigrants will respond to incentives.

    • #3
    • August 28, 2015 at 4:23 am
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  4. Reagan

    Stephen Dawson: Yes, I’m not saying that the experience is directly transferable. This is not just a story on how to deal with unwanted immigration, but one of how people will deny the bleeding obvious: that even immigrants will respond to incentives.

    It is the human condition.

    • #4
    • August 28, 2015 at 4:29 am
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  5. Inactive

    Fantastic post. We can learn from this and hard data always outweighs emotional rhetoric. Very well done.

    • #5
    • August 28, 2015 at 4:30 am
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  6. Thatcher
    Stephen Dawson Post author

    Thank you Brent.

    • #6
    • August 28, 2015 at 4:51 am
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  7. Contributor

    Stephen Dawson: Moral: it is not just push factors. You don’t reduce illegal immigration by increasing the number of legal places; in these days of cheap travel and millions seeking a better life, demand is effectively infinite. Instead, you have to make it thoroughly not worth the while of the would-be entrants.

    Absolutely agreed and kudos to Oz for showing how one can be both tough and humanitarian at the same time.

    If you’ll forgive me introducing a hobby-horse of mine, there is one (long-term) way to reduce demand that helps everyone: to do what we can to help other nations become better, freer places to make a life in.

    • #7
    • August 28, 2015 at 6:01 am
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  8. Coolidge

    Australia is so tough they still won’t let Mel Gibson become a citizen!

    • #8
    • August 28, 2015 at 6:07 am
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  9. Member

    Tom Meyer, Ed.: If you’ll forgive me introducing a hobby-horse of mine, there is one (long-term) way to reduce demand that helps everyone: to do what we can to help other nations become better, freer places to make a life in.

    Very good point. And although it may seem contradictory, we could better absorb immigrants and even benefit from them if we made our own country a better, freer place in which to make a life. That means for starters, unbuilding the system of corporate welfare and crony capitalism. But strangely, it’s the crony capitalists who seem most intent on having more immigrants.

    • #9
    • August 28, 2015 at 6:15 am
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  10. Contributor

    The Reticulator: That means for starters, unbuilding the system of corporate welfare and crony capitalism. But strangely, it’s the crony capitalists who seem most intent on having more immigrants.

    Agreed. It’s the old Milton Freidman thing: countries can function with welfare states or large-scale immigration, but not with both.

    • #10
    • August 28, 2015 at 6:26 am
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  11. Member

    Is the number of immigrants in Australia high enough to form an exploitable voting block for a major political party?

    It seems to me that the US could have done this 10 or 20 years ago, but politicians respond to incentives too. And, right now in the US, politicians will be punished if they try to do anything sensible like this.

    • #11
    • August 28, 2015 at 6:27 am
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  12. Member

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:

    The Reticulator: That means for starters, unbuilding the system of corporate welfare and crony capitalism. But strangely, it’s the crony capitalists who seem most intent on having more immigrants.

    Agreed. It’s the old Milton Freidman thing: countries can function with welfare states or large-scale immigration, but not with both.

    I guess I haven’t read (or remembered) as much Milton Freidman as I thought I had. I didn’t know he said this. Do you happen to know where?

    • #12
    • August 28, 2015 at 6:33 am
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  13. Thatcher

    Imagine that, enforcing the law solved the problem.

    • #13
    • August 28, 2015 at 6:50 am
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  14. Contributor

    The Reticulator:

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:

    The Reticulator: That means for starters, unbuilding the system of corporate welfare and crony capitalism. But strangely, it’s the crony capitalists who seem most intent on having more immigrants.

    Agreed. It’s the old Milton Freidman thing: countries can function with welfare states or large-scale immigration, but not with both.

    I guess I haven’t read (or remembered) as much Milton Freidman as I thought I had. I didn’t know he said this. Do you happen to know where?

    This open borders site has a pretty good summation. Here’s Milt himself on it:

    • #14
    • August 28, 2015 at 6:51 am
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  15. Reagan

    He mentioned it in a few lectures and I believe it was in Free to Choose.

    • #15
    • August 28, 2015 at 7:01 am
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  16. Member

    Jamie Lockett:He mentioned it in a few lectures and I believe it was in Free to Choose.

    A book that should be required reading in any reasonably competent high school.

    • #16
    • August 28, 2015 at 7:29 am
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  17. Inactive

    Great post!

    Removing the incentive is clearly the most important thing to do, especially in a country like ours with a large, hard-to-police border.

    Trump appears to be the only one in the 2016 race who gets this, which I guess befits a businessman.

    • #17
    • August 28, 2015 at 7:30 am
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  18. Member
    MBF

    @CuriousKevmo, and for the incompetent public high schools, they should show the movies.

    • #18
    • August 28, 2015 at 7:34 am
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  19. Reagan

    Tuck: Removing the incentive is clearly the most important thing to do, especially in a country like ours with a large, hard-to-police border.

    That’s harder to do than you realize. Get rid of all welfare programs and institute draconian punishments for people who employ illegals and you will still have a massive illegal immigration problem.

    America is just a better place to live than where they are coming from and people will move mountains to get here. Our success begets the illegal immigration problem.

    Tuck: Trump appears to be the only one in the 2016 race who gets this, which I guess befits a businessman.

    Where does this fantasy come from. Illegal Immigration has been a Republican talking point for literally decades. Building a wall has been a part of the last two “amnesties” that were passed – it was stopped by court challenges. e-Verify is a Republican idea. Welfare reform was a Republican idea. Is Trump the only one that gets it because he’s willing to talk tough and propose completely unrealistic solutions?

    I know – I will turn every single federal worker into a border patrol agent and have the military dig a 2 mile wide trench between Mexico and the US. Then I will throw the CEO and HR departments of any corporation found to employ an illegal in Federal Prison for not less than 20 years. All by executive fiat. Can I be the front-runner now?

    • #19
    • August 28, 2015 at 7:36 am
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  20. Inactive

    Jamie Lockett: That’s harder to do than you realize.

    You sound like a card-carrying member of the Surrender Caucus.

    Stop making excuses. Our current policy is not even to try, which is why we fail.

    I will posit up front that it is impossible to achieve 100% success in America, like the Australians apparently have. But it’s a long way from total failure, where we are now, to something short of 100%.

    “Illegal Immigration has been a Republican talking point for literally decades.”

    Yes, talking point. They do nothing, but they do talk.

    How many Federal executives in charge of immigration were fired under the Bush administration for failing to enforce the laws already on the books?

    • #20
    • August 28, 2015 at 7:44 am
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  21. Inactive

    Jamie Lockett:I know – I will turn every single federal worker into a border patrol agent and have the military dig a 2 mile wide trench between Mexico and the US. Then I will throw the CEO and HR departments of any corporation found to employ an illegal in Federal Prison for not less than 20 years. All by executive fiat. Can I be the front-runner now?

    How does this follow from what Tuck said about removing the incentive? For reductio ad absurdum to work, you have to start from the same premise. Also, I don’t remember reading any of that in Trump’s immigration plan.

    I guess I could apply the same sort of leap to your logic: immigration enforcement is hard, so let’s not even try to secure the border. Does that seem fair to you?

    • #21
    • August 28, 2015 at 7:45 am
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  22. Reagan

    Tuck:

    Jamie Lockett: That’s harder to do than you realize.

    You sound like a card-carrying member of the Surrender Caucus.

    Stop making excuses. Our current policy is not even to try, which is why we fail.

    I will posit up front that it is impossible to achieve 100% success in America, like the Australians apparently have. But it’s a long way from total failure, where we are now, to something short of 100%.

    You completely ignored the rest of my argument and instead insulted me. Well done, very Trumpian.

    • #22
    • August 28, 2015 at 7:47 am
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  23. Reagan

    Jackal: How does this follow from what Tuck said about removing the incentive? For reductio ad absurdum to work, you have to start from the same premise. Also, I don’t remember reading any of that in Trump’s immigration plan. I guess I could apply the same sort of leap to your logic: immigration enforcement is hard, so let’s not even try to secure the border. Does that seem fair to you?

    I was proposing outlandish solutions as an exaggeration of the completely unrealistic solutions that Donald Trump is proposing.

    Almost everything The Donald is given credit for has been proposed and supported by other Republicans – some of which are in this race. And yet The Donald is the “only one talking about immigration”. Please.

    • #23
    • August 28, 2015 at 7:48 am
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  24. Inactive

    Jamie Lockett:

    You completely ignored the rest of my argument and instead insulted me. Well done, very Trumpian.

    Make an argument. “It’s too hard!” isn’t an argument, it’s surrender. If you don’t want the label, don’t put it on yourself.

    • #24
    • August 28, 2015 at 7:52 am
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  25. Inactive

    Jamie Lockett:I was proposing outlandish solutions as an exaggeration of the completely unrealistic solutions that Donald Trump is proposing.

    Almost everything The Donald is given credit for has been proposed and supported by other Republicans – some of which are in this race. And yet The Donald is the “only one talking about immigration”. Please.

    These don’t seem that outlandish to me, and if you can point to the other candidates’ position papers on immigration that’d be great. Get past the “make Mexico pay for the wall” and actually consider taxing remittances, and…well, it beats this:

    immigration

    • #25
    • August 28, 2015 at 7:57 am
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  26. Reagan

    Tuck: Make an argument. “It’s too hard!” isn’t an argument, it’s surrender. If you don’t want the label, don’t put it on yourself.

    Maybe you didn’t understand what I was trying to say. You can do all of these things, some of which I would support (no Welfare programs and e-Verify) and you will still be left with a large number of people wanting to come here illegally because life is is just better. What is your plan to stop these people?

    • #26
    • August 28, 2015 at 7:57 am
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  27. Inactive

    Jamie Lockett: …Almost everything The Donald is given credit for has been proposed and supported by other Republicans – some of which are in this race.

    We’ve got the amnesty crowd, and the secure-the-border crowd. Who’s in the reduce incentives crowd on the Republican side, other than Trump?

    Here’s the platform, it’s not there…

    • #27
    • August 28, 2015 at 7:58 am
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  28. Inactive

    Jamie Lockett:

    Tuck: Make an argument. “It’s too hard!” isn’t an argument, it’s surrender. If you don’t want the label, don’t put it on yourself.

    Maybe you didn’t understand what I was trying to say. You can do all of these things, some of which I would support (no Welfare programs and e-Verify) and you will still be left with a large number of people wanting to come here illegally because life is is just better. What is your plan to stop these people?

    I already posited that 100% is not possible. We’re not an island in the middle of the Pacific. If you can’t get citizenship for your kid, and you’re deported if you’re caught (right now if you get caught you’re often released back on the street pending a hearing) that reduces the incentives dramatically…

    Penalizing employers for filing false SSNs would also reduce incentives.

    But we don’t even bother to enforce existing laws, under either party.

    US Attorneys DECLINED Prosecution Against Illegal Aliens Who Used Social Security Numbers Of Dead People

    • #28
    • August 28, 2015 at 8:05 am
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  29. Reagan

    Tuck: Here’s the platform, it’s not there…

    A 20 second search found me references to both worksite enforcement and e-Verify, along with enforcing existing law, the border wall, denying federal tuition assistance to illegal immigrants and defunding Sanctuary Cities.

    • #29
    • August 28, 2015 at 8:05 am
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  30. Inactive

    Jamie Lockett: Building a wall has been a part of the last two “amnesties” that were passed – it was stopped by court challenges.

    I tried to verify this statement, and couldn’t find any evidence for it. Given how Google works with old news, that’s not too surprising.

    Do you have any?

    • #30
    • August 28, 2015 at 8:21 am
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