by Joe Guzzardi
With the federal debt ceiling debate at crisis level, Republicans and Democrats are rumored to be working hard to cut fat from the budget.
As usual, however, illegal immigration is not one of the variables under consideration. If I didn’t know better, I might think the United States didn’t have an illegal immigrant population that is at least 11-30 million strong. And I might also think, mistakenly, that since illegal immigration isn’t part of the budget debate, it represents no cost to taxpayers.
In his July 18 Fox News opinion column Bob Dane, communications director for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, wondered how federal funding to millions of illegal immigrants could be left off the table. Since Congress refuses to discuss illegal immigration as a significant factor in layers of national debt, then we can sadly conclude that it has no plan other than to allow the status quo to continue. Doing nothing, however, guarantees that costs associated with illegal immigration will increase indefinitely
Dane offers several practical recommendations, with which I agree, that would not only gradually reduce expenditures on illegal immigrants but also would create job opportunities for millions of unemployed Americans.
According to FAIR’s analysis, American taxpayers spend $113 billion annually to subsidize illegal immigration. State and local taxpayers are the most heavily hit. They provide $84 billion in services while the federal government pays out $29 billion. With funding for illegal immigration—housing, education K-12 and college, ESL, emergency medical care and AFDC—obviously a major budget factor, the question for Congress is how to permanently eliminate those costs that taxpayers should not have to bear.
If Congress fails to act decisively, then the costs associated with illegal immigration remain. Trying to eliminate programs one-by-one like the Women, Infants and Children nutrition program or K-12 education that aliens are able to take advantage of would be politically unfeasible. Among other hurdles, U.S. citizens are also WIC beneficiaries and many of the students who benefit are the American citizen children of illegal immigrants.
The more effective solution is the long term, permanent one. A problem the magnitude of illegal immigration, which began with the Immigration Act of 1965 and has continued uninterrupted for nearly 50 years, won’t go away over night.
Congress’ immediate goal should be approve legislation that makes it increasingly less appealing to immigrate to the United States and may also encourage illegal immigrants already residing here to go home. The top priorities are the two pending bills, one in the Senate and another in the House, that would mandate E-Verify, the free-to-employers program that confirms whether newly hired workers are legally authorized to hold jobs.
Once E-Verify is in place, the U.S. jobs magnet—not as powerful as it was a decade ago but still alluring—disappears. And gradually, illegal immigrants living in the U.S. will find it increasingly difficult to get jobs. Many will eventually go home.
Now is the time for Congress to act. According to a new Rasmussen poll, 75 percent of Americans favor strict penalties against employers who hire aliens. With a tough election looming in 2012, Congress can take advantage of the electorate’s mood by passing mandatory E-Verify and then campaigning on a platform of acting in the best interests of American workers.
Joe Guzzardi has written editorial columns – mostly about immigration and related social issues – since 1986. He is a Senior Writing Fellow for Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS) and his columns have frequently been syndicated in various U.S. newspapers and websites. Contact him at JoeGuzzardi@CAPSweb.org.