Editor’s note: In “Illegals: The Imminent Threat Posed by Our Unsecured U.S.-Mexico Border,” veteran journalist Jon E. Dougherty documents a truth that both major political parties have missed – namely, that sustained high immigration levels from south of the border will continue to pose economic, labor, security and criminal threats to the United States, unless American and Mexican leaders find ways to limit it.
This is the third of four excerpts featured on WorldNetDaily from “Illegals,” a recent release of WND Books. Today’s excerpt addresses the high public cost of services provided to illegal aliens.
“Illegal immigration is about much more than fighting terrorism. The fact is, illegal Mexicans are pouring across our borders, and, as a result, American tax-paid services like education and health care are being pushed to the brink of collapse,” says columnist Tom DeWeese. “It is an incomprehensible arrogance exercised by both Mexican and American officials who, while promoting illegal immigration, see no problem in letting U.S. taxpayers foot the bill.”
One study by Harvard economics professor George J. Borjas shows immigrants to the U.S. continue to use public welfare more than native-born Americans, despite federal immigration laws that prohibit residency for aliens likely to become “a public charge.” He also found that six years after a Republican-controlled Congress passed major welfare reform in 1996, the number of people on welfare has only declined slightly and is, indeed, again on the rise.
“I would not be surprised if we saw after a few years that [welfare reform] had very little long-term effect,” said Borjas. He found that the number of native households receiving welfare assistance declined from 15.6 percent in 1994 to 13.5 percent in 1998, but grew to 13.7 percent in 2000. At the same time, reliance on welfare by foreigners in the U.S. declined from 23.4 percent to 20 percent in 1998, but rose to 21 percent in 2000, the last year studied.
Borjas believes the results show that immigration reform is needed, especially on a national level.
“If we are concerned about immigrant welfare use, it would probably make sense to select immigrants who don’t need welfare in the first place, rather than trying to prevent immigrants from using it after they have already been allowed into the country,” he said. “We could do this by selecting immigrants based more on their education levels rather than the current system, which for the most part admits immigrants based on whether they have a relative in the U.S.”
As local and state governments fight to find ways to trim services because of, in part, extra immigrant-driven costs, American citizens will continue to suffer because few of the same people seeking the budget cuts want to do much to trim immigration (in a case of bitter irony, states bear most of the costs of illegal immigration while most of the taxes paid by illegals go into the federal treasury). And most of the financial brunt of immigration is borne by the border states. In 1994 in California – where in 2003 the state found itself in the red some $25 billion to $35 billion, depending on estimates – then-Gov. Pete Wilson said the state spent $2.3 billion in unreimbursed costs to provide federally mandated services to illegal immigrants: $300 million for health care, $1.7 billion for education and $377 million for corrections. That estimate had risen to $3 billion by 2002.
One study co-authored by New Mexico State University government professor Nadia Rubaii-Barrett found that the cost per capita of illegal immigration to residents of New Mexico counties bordering Mexico was $23.45, while in Texas the per capita cost was $12; in Arizona it was $22, and in California it was $19.
“The burden is falling on the poorest counties, which can least afford it. They either have to cut services or raise taxes to cover the costs of what we think is a federal government responsibility,” said Rubaii-Barrett.
“The citizens of the four border states pay a disproportionate share of [immigration] costs,” wrote U.S. Senator Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., in a Jan. 11, 2002, column to constituents. Quoting columnist and author Michelle Malkin, Kyl said, “while public funds are being used to provide care to illegal aliens, ‘indigent senior citizens – American citizens – must abide by stricter limits, fewer choices, and rising prices … under their government health-care coverage.’ … We are a generous people, but more and more my constituents are saying this is unfair.” Kyl, along with fellow Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, says they are working to provide more federal funding to border states to alleviate budget crunches associated with handling illegal immigrants.
“Even though illegal aliens make little use of welfare, from which they are generally barred, the costs of illegal immigration in terms of government expenditures for education, criminal justice and emergency medical care are significant,” says a cost analysis published by the Center for Immigration Studies. “The fact that states must bear the cost of federal failure turns illegal immigration, in effect, into one of the largest unfunded federal mandates.”
Many public hospitals in the United States, especially in the Southwest, are facing major financial difficulties because of the services that they are rendering to indigent alien patients. Some have closed; others are threatening to do so. By the spring of 2003, lawmakers said 77 hospitals along the border were facing a crisis. In September 2002, the U.S.-Mexico Border Counties Coalition found U.S. border hospitals spent close to $190 million in 2000 to provide health care to illegals. The study calculated the losses at $79 million in California, $74 million in Texas, $31 million in Arizona and $6 million in New Mexico. It also said that emergency-service providers incurred another $13 million in uncompensated costs.
The Federation for American Immigration Reform says that, according to its estimates, illegal aliens soak up $3.7 billion annually in Medicare and Medicaid benefits.
“It’s an enormous cost and can be very crippling, especially in border states,” says David Ray, a spokesman for the group, of the cost of those benefits. “The federal government is the one that’s dropping the ball in allowing poor immigration enforcement to [negatively affect] the state’s pocketbooks.”
“The simple fact is our border hospitals are struggling to remain in business because they can no longer afford to absorb the cost of providing medical care to undocumented immigrants,” says McCain. “As hospitals and emergency rooms close, citizens across the state and the nation will face higher health-care costs and reduced access to care. It is time the federal government took responsibility for this problem, before the crisis worsens.”
Kyl sounds the same note: “Unless we act now to reimburse states and local health-care providers for the cost of federally mandated care to illegal immigrants, more hospitals will be forced to cut costs and possibly close their doors.”
Tomorrow’s final excerpt addresses the dangerous, thankless job performed by U.S. agents protecting the border.