Associated Press, October 23, 2013:
“Man discovered in attic; lived hidden for five years eating food, wearing clothing belonging to homeowners. US District Court rules homeowners must allow him to stay and must adopt him into their family!”
Did you raise your eyebrows at that? I hope so, though it’s not a real news report. Yet isn’t this what America is really doing with illegal immigrants?
They have come to our country against our laws, are further violating those laws every day that they are here, yet the courts insist that we provide them free medical care (as cited here and here), food stamps, in many states drivers licenses (California, Colorado, Illinois, and Connecticut among others), and in other states college tuition assistance.
What is the Cost to Taxpayers?
Obviously, since no one knows for sure how many illegal immigrants there are in the US, it’s impossible to pin down precisely the true cost, but it is generally accepted that there are approximately 11.5 million people here in the US without proper legal status.
The Heritage Foundation issued a report earlier this year which estimated that the US currently provides nearly $25,000 a year in assistance to the average illegal immigrant but gets less than $11,000 in tax revenue in return. Heritage further estimates that if we grant citizenship to all of those 11.5 million, the annual expense will leap to an average of $43,900 in giveaways while tax income from those same folks will increase to only $16,000 per person. So we increase our income by a mere 45%, while our costs go up a whopping 76% to $504 billion per year. Not exactly a recipe for financial success.
Good or Bad for the Economy?
There is much discussion about whether illegal immigrants help or harm the US economy. The New York Times makes the point that since illegal immigrants are often willing to work for lower wages, they create more competition for lower paid jobs, and hence result in lower wages for those American citizens in that sector of the workplace.
The same Times article goes on to suggest that the presence of more lower paid, non-specialized workers actually benefits more highly skilled workers since employers then hire those skilled workers for highly skilled positions which pay more. It’s a two-sided coin, with many proponents arguing each point of view.
On one site alone, ProCon.org, there are twelve different articles posted, six from each side, while a Google search for “economic impact of illegal immigrants in the United States” returned 735,000 hits. Clearly, with that much debate and such a plethora of data it is not within the scope of this article to arrive at an inarguable conclusion to the question.
The Key Word is “Illegal.”
As most of us know, illegal means “not sanctioned by or according to the law.” In a nation of law, which the US is supposed to be, things that are illegal are not supposed to be allowed. I would suggest that to intentionally condone illegal activities because of the belief that such activities might be good for the economy of the nation is, on the very face of it, a bad thing to do, and can set a very negative precedent.
Some might argue that this an unfair comparison, but would anyone suggest that it is appropriate to teach a child that doing something that’s against the law is okay because it brings financial benefits to the child’s family? I would hope not.
The law is the law, and we should either obey or change it. Yes, there are laws that are unjust, and when we feel that they are, we must change them through the proper legislative procedures of our nation. But before we go about changing the existing law we must first take powerful steps to prevent the massive abuse of whatever changes are implemented.
Illegal immigration costs taxpayers billions. Granting citizenship to the 11.5 million who are here in the US now will increase the cost to taxpayers by billions more. When a person comes to the US and lives here without following the proper legal procedures that person is breaking the law.
What Can We Do?
The first step – before we even begin to start thinking about changing America’s immigration policy – is to stop future illegal immigration. Before we even begin to address the problem of how to deal with the 11.5 million who are already here illegally (which is really the point of the current Immigration Reform Bill put forth by the so-called Gang of Eight) we have to make absolutely, positively, unerringly certain that we have secured our borders for all time to come. We cannot allow that number to continue to grow, now or ever.
On October 17, President Obama said that he wants to pass an immigration bill by the end of the year. That’s two months, nine days from now. Two months, nine days. That is not a lot of time to calmly, carefully analyze a massive and immensely complex issue that has perplexed our nation for decades.
We’ve been down that path before! During the Reagan years we first “fixed” illegal immigration with “amnesty” and a promise to secure our borders, than six more times in the ensuing years followed it with other similar legislation.
The Seven Amnesties Passed by Congress
|1. Immigration and Reform Control Act (IRCA), 1986: A blanket amnesty for some 2.7 million illegal aliens|
|2. Section 245(i) Amnesty, 1994: A temporary rolling amnesty for 578,000 illegal aliens|
|3. Section 245(i) Extension Amnesty, 1997: An extension of the rolling amnesty created in 1994|
|4. Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act (NACARA) Amnesty, 1997: An amnesty for close to one million illegal aliens from Central America|
|5. Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act Amnesty (HRIFA), 1998: An amnesty for 125,000 illegal aliens from Haiti|
|6. Late Amnesty, 2000: An amnesty for some illegal aliens who claim they should have been amnestied under the 1986 IRCA amnesty, an estimated 400,000 illegal aliens|
|7. LIFE Act Amnesty, 2000: A reinstatement of the rolling Section 245(i) amnesty, an estimated 900,000 illegal aliens|
Sadly, the promise to secure our borders failed to come true, and now we find ourselves once again facing the same massive and incredibly challenging problem all over again.
We need to make sure that when we finally wrestle this highly emotionally charged and controversial issue to the ground and gain control over it, we don’t find it reemerging like some horrific phoenix from its own ashes, five, ten, or twenty years hence.
Let me repeat: Secure the borders, then make whatever changes we, as a people, deem appropriate. Secure, then explore change; not make changes, then secure. And it would then follow as the day the night that whatever changes we may deem proper will be implemented looking forward, not back into the past. The past is immutable, unchangeable, and we should only move forward, not fall backwards.
Americans are All Immigrants
Let me pause to emphatically stress that I am not at all even remotely opposed to immigration. If America didn’t welcome immigrants to her shores, I’d be living somewhere in Germany or Ireland right now.
In the 1850s my maternal great-great grandparents came from Germany. In the 1890s, two other sets of great-grandparents came, one pair from Germany and one from Ireland. None of them were welcomed with open arms by all of their new neighbors. The Germans were often called “Dutch,” the Irish usually “Paddy,” neither of which was a term of endearment. But they all were immigrants, and they all eventually settled in and became part of the “Melting Pot” that is America today.
In actuality, all Americans are descended from immigrants. Some are from families that came to our shores as long as 25,000 years ago from the other side of the Bering Land Bridge in northeast Asia. Others came in the last decade or two and will add their children to the wonderful panorama of American life, but all are either born of immigrants or are immigrants themselves. No other nation on Earth boasts such a widely varied, such a magnificently diversified heritage. America today welcomes immigrants from every nation on the face of our planet: we always have, we always will.
But we must never forget that America is a land of laws, and in order to remain true to our heritage, we must adhere to our laws, not ignore them when some find them inconvenient. That’s the American Way.
What is the Big Hurry?
In late August of this year the Obama Administration expressed the urgent, immediate need to launch a missile strike by US naval forces “within the next two to three days” against Syria. The problem that was so time critical was to punish the Syrian leader, Bashar al-Assad, for his egregious use of chemical weapons in an attack upon the rebel forces vying against his government.
In an article on August 28, this author asked the question, “What is the Big Hurry?”, counseling patience and the hope for unity with our allies in spite of the urgency to move ahead on our own cited by Mr. Obama and his advisers.
Now, nearly two months later, no strike has been launched. Great Britain decided there was no big hurry. France said they’d prefer to wait for the UN analysis. As the international consensus that Mr. Obama and his team had thought existed for his “immediate strike” evaporated, his “Big Hurry” did so too. Perhaps Mr. Obama read our work and was inspired to a more rational and reasoned approach than his rampant calls for warlike action.
That’s what he should do now with regards to the immigration issue. Slow down, take the time to explore all options and all possible outcomes, not rush into it because he wants to get it done by December 31. As previously mentioned, this is a problem that has existed in our nation for decades, and while we should most definitely address it, there is no “Big Hurry.”
Three and a half years ago, then-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, referring the fledgling Affordable Care Act, told Americans “we must pass it in order to see what’s in it.” That was another time when Mr. Obama’s administration proclaimed that we were in a “Big Hurry.” Sadly, the ACA was passed, and we are day-by-day finding out that it contained much that Americans found to be…less than what they had promised.
“If you have a plan that you like, you can keep it. Period. No matter what.” Barack Obama, July 16, 2009.
“My plan will save Americans $2,500 a year on health care.” Barack Obama, July 20, 2009.
As pointed out last week in this space, neither of those promises has proven to be true.
Was the hurry to pass the bill really because that was the best way to find out what was in it? That seems an unlikely methodology to really understand anything; adopt it, then figure out what it means.
I would suggest that the real reason for the “Big Hurry” to pass Obamacare was either or both of the following: (1) that there were provisions the administration didn’t want us to know about, or (2) because the 2010 mid-term elections were rapidly approaching and Mr. Obama was afraid that he was about to lose his majority in the House. If it were this latter point that scared him, he was right to be afraid. The Republicans did wrest control of the House from the Dems, and Obamacare would almost surely never have made it out of the newly reconstituted Congress in 2011.
Maybe this time we should look inside the Immigration Bill that he’s in such a hurry to pass and find out what it really says before we let it come to a vote.
With any luck, leaders like Rand Paul, Mike Lee, Ted Cruz, and others who stand for reason, logic, and the values defined in the US Constitution, values expressed by men like Thomas Jefferson 250 years ago, will fight for that well thought out approach.