"We are seeing the kinds of results that the country hasn't seen for many years," Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said last month.
When Congress failed to pass comprehensive immigration reform in 2007, the administration kicked up its enforcement of the immigration laws already on the books. The government also hired more people to process applications for immigrants who want to enter the country legally.
These enhancements led to increases in arrests of illegal immigrants and employers who hire them; decreases in the amount of time it takes to process immigration applications — it now takes 9-10 months for naturalization applications, compared with 16-18 months before that. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has reduced its backlog to 1.1 million, which is down from its biggest backlog of 3.6 million in 2004; it's on track to eliminate the backlog by October 2009.
The government recently awarded a five-year, $491 million contract to IBM to convert a paper-based immigration processing system to an electronic system.