Federal spending on illegal immigrants shortchanges legitimate taxpayers
February 1, 2006
Brandon Guichard, regular columnist
Is it possible for something to be the cornerstone of a labor force, supporting an entire economy and yet handicap that same economy by draining from it billions of dollars? That is a problem that Virginia’s state legislature has been discussing and will continue to debate in a congressional session dealing with illegal immigration issues, among other topics, that began Jan.11. Both the State House and Senate are considering some 40 bills and resolutions which address such things as stiffening penalties for businesses that knowingly hire illegal workers and banning illegal aliens from attending state colleges and universities.
What is happening in Virginia is a microcosm of what is happening all over the country. Proponents of measures that crack down on illegal labor all over the U.S. argue that those living in the country illegally are siphoning away huge sums of money from the economy, while opponents to these bills argue that we are too dependent on the labor illegal workers provide to take such drastic actions.
It is undeniable that illegal immigrants compose a large portion of the American low-skilled labor market, there are between eight and 11 million illegal persons providing labor for every industry from textiles and manufacturing to agriculture. And most people illegally living and working in the U.S. do menial and unskilled jobs, the foundation for much of our economy, that the majority of Americans consider themselves to be above. So, while it would be hard to say with any certainty what exactly would happen if we removed illegal immigrants from the labor force, as some propose, the most likely scenario would be massive basic-labor shortages leading to soaring consumer prices. A difficult shock for our economy to absorb.
But while this argument is valid in many respects, it must give way when American citizens are affected in more negative ways than positive. At a certain point it is not only necessary but right to strengthen laws against those gaining work illegally. It may be true that illegal immigrants provide the cheap labor that keeps many industries afloat, but it is also true that illegal workers have displaced American workers and depressed wages at a cost of $133 billion, last year alone. And there is more to the story.
Even when the tax money illegal laborers provide is subtracted from cost of the services they use, it creates a net loss. The services illegal persons use, about $2.5 billion in Medicaid, $2.2 billion in medical treatment, $1.9 billion in food assistance, and $1.6 billion in prison and legal costs, among others, creates a net fiscal deficit of $10.4 billion for the federal government, according to the Center for Immigration Studies.
The costs break down to about $2,700 per illegal household per year and these losses must be covered by tax money from American citizens or by our government borrowing more money and further increasing the national debt. It’s hard to fathom the billions spent on illegal immigrants, but to put it in context the total educational expenditures used on the children of illegal aliens, $7.4 billion annually, could buy a computer for every junior high student in America, according to the Federation for American Immigration Reform.
The economic costs of illegal immigration, from the direct expenses, such as schooling and hospital costs, to indirect expenses, such as remittances and American worker displacement, place significant burdens on the economy.
But we should think about more than the increased tax responsibilities. We should put greater consideration into the effects on American citizens, particularly the least fortunate.
There are over 34 million people living under the federal poverty line in America and the number has been increasing for the last four years. Some of these people are not actively searching for work or trying to improve their lives, but for those that are it is becoming harder and harder to compete against illegal laborers who often work for minimum wage or less, “under the table.” Before we try to help people from other countries through lax labor laws and government aid, we need to take care of our own citizens.
To protect our citizens and our economy we must first pass laws, as Virginia’s legislature is trying to do, that make penalties more severe for businesses who knowingly hire illegal persons. Then we can focus on reducing poverty in the U.S. by limiting the funding of services to illegal immigrants and using that money to help our fellow citizens instead.
The gravity of this issue demands that we weigh both sides before reaching a final decision. There will always be a place for unskilled labor in our economy; however, we also need to protect U.S. citizens. For our government, this issue is a delicate balancing act, but something must be done because right now the balance is tilted against Americans.
HHHHMMMMMMmmm. So legitimate tax paying Americas are being screwed when their tax money is spent not on Americans, but rather on ILLEGAL immigrants. What a novel idea.