By implication from the volume of arrests, the number of illegal border-crossers entering the United States through the southwestern border has plummeted to levels not seen for nearly forty years.  According to figures released last week by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), 327,577 persons were arrested along the U.S.-Mexico border during fiscal year 2011, a drop in 25% from the prior year and a pittance of the 1.6 million persons arrested in 2000.  This trend, coupled with Immigration and Custom Enforcement’s (ICE) removal of nearly 400,000 individuals from the country in fiscal year 2011 – the largest number of removals in the agency’s history – bodes favorably for the immigration reform debate, given the frequent caveat by tepid proponents of immigration reform that the border must be secured before comprehensive changes to immigration laws are implemented.  Since 2004, the number of Border Patrol agents has been doubled and physical barriers improved, along with technological advances in security measures, such as the use of cameras, sensors and Predator drones (yes, Predator drones).  Will a precipitous drop in illegal migration change the political environment for comprehensive immigration reform? Stay tuned.