The United Kingdom Borders Agency is in the news for sending its officers to hang around some London underground rail stations to stop people (randomly, but they stop only non-white people) and ask them to prove that they have a right to be in the UK. This is not much of a departure from the traditions of this organisation. A few years ago, UKBA used to send a charabanc of officers to Brighton every summer. Accompanied by police and a tame local news photographer, they would raid restaurants and the side shows on the pier, looking for people working illegally. On one occasion they circled the pier with boats in case any terrified illegals sought to escape by hurling themselves into the sea.
I don't think the results were much to boast about. At best, a few Brazilians with tourist visas who could be deported back to Rio to spread the word about how much fun Brighton is and how awful Britain.
Anyway, What does an illegal immigrant to the UK look like? This is not a topic on which I have any expertise, but I find I have a very large number of beliefs. I will number them and you can shout "True!" or "False!" or anything else you feel like this morning:
1. There are a lot of illegal immigrants in the UK, and "a lot" means "at least 100,000"
2. Some are people who have overstayed their student or tourist Visas and no longer have a right to be here
3. Some entered in the back of a lorry, evading border controls, and never had a right too be here
4. A few could have entered legally but didn't realise that and chose the back-of-a-lorry route
5. Most are working
6. Most are working in cash-in-hand jobs
7. Many are coerced or exploited by those who provide them with work
8. Most are under 40
9. Most are under 30
10. Most are male, though in recent years the proportion of women has increased.
11. Most are non-white, for the simple reason that the biggest countries and the poorest countries have non-white populations, many of whom dream of better lives elsewhere - for which reason, we impose stringent visa requirements on nationals of those countries.
12. A significant minority are white from educated and affluent backgrounds; this includes many Visa overstayers
13. A few are engaged in serious criminal activities
14. Those engaged in serious criminal activities do get caught by the police
15. Most illegal immigrants are in south east England, especially London: this is where there are most jobs available
16. Most illegal immigrants knew someone who was already in the UK, legally or illegally, before they came here
17. If you granted an amnesty to all illegal immigrants who can show that they have been working and supporting themselves, nothing terrible would happen.
18. If you amnestied the group identified in 17, there would be a net gain to the UK Treasury from taxes they would start paying in excess of any benefits they might claim - simply because most of those amnestied would be young, single and fit.
19. An amnesty of the sort just described would reduce the number of people you needed to worry about by at least 90%
20. So why not accept that Boris Johnson got it right and that instead of posting UKBA Trolls at London Underground stations, we should use most of our resources to set up a fast-track Amnesty Office
21. And, OK, then use resources to tackle problems created by illegal migrants who have other reasons for being here than the desire to work.