It has long been common knowledge that Dalton, Ga., has a high percentage of Hispanic residents, many of whom were drawn to the city and the surrounding area by jobs in the textile industry. In fact, today, almost half of Dalton's 33,000 residents are Hispanic.
Many Hispanics in Dalton are hard-working U.S. citizens or immigrants who have come to the United States lawfully. We are grateful for their contribution to society.
Unfortunately, however, an uncertain but probably fairly high percentage of Dalton's Hispanics are illegal aliens. Though we appreciate the work ethic demonstrated by many of them and we understand why they seek better economic opportunities than they can find in their homelands, they consume expensive educational and other social services paid for by U.S. taxpayers.
In addition, in this time of extremely high unemployment, some illegal aliens are taking jobs that might otherwise be filled by citizens or legal immigrants. That is probably especially true in Whitfield County, Ga., where Dalton is located. Whitfield County's unemployment rate is a painful 11.1 percent. It is unjust that potentially thousands of legal workers may be denied jobs because those positions are filled by illegal aliens.
But encouragingly, there is at least anecdotal evidence that some fairly simple law enforcement efforts appear to be reducing the number of illegal aliens in Dalton.
In Georgia, as in Tennessee, a Social Security number and proof of citizenship or legal residence are required to get a driver's license. That makes it difficult or impossible for people who are not in the country legally to obtain a license. A Georgia law also requires the arrest of anyone who is caught driving without a license. So through ordinary traffic stops and occasional traffic checkpoints in the city, Dalton law enforcement officers evidently are apprehending quite a few illegal aliens, who are then processed for deportation.
Aiding this effort is Whitfield County's participation in a federal program under which authorities check the immigration status of everyone booked into the local jail.
Although authorities in Dalton don't have firm figures on the number of illegals who have been caught this way, anecdotal evidence suggests the efforts by law enforcement are working. Some illegal aliens are being arrested directly, of course, but many others are apparently departing of their own accord for fear of being caught and deported.
"A lot of people are leaving," one legal immigrant in Dalton told the Times Free Press recently. "They are taking their children out of school."
Another immigrant, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Mexico, said vacancies are increasing in a number of apartments in Dalton as some illegal aliens are being detained by police or are leaving the area on their own.
So Dalton's and Whitfield County's commonsense measures are evidently having a worthwhile effect - very much contrary to the frequent claim that there's just "nothing we can do" to fight illegal immigration in the United States.
Wouldn't it be sensible to replicate those successful efforts elsewhere?