Immigration Reform Now- Part 2: Social Services

There are the obligatory complaints about the effects of illegal immigration on public services and infrastructure. However, one has to look at the problem in perspective. In certain cases, there are clear cut effects, but blanket assertions that state that on a whole illegal immigrants are the cause of all our ills serve no purpose. According to the Census Bureau, immigration to the US accounts for 43% of the population growth in the country. At the county level, immigration accounts for something like 28% of population growth. In fact, from 2000-2006, one third of all counties saw population declines as people moved in search of jobs and economic opportunity. Hence, most of the strain on social services and infrastructure is attributable to intrinsic migration patterns, primarily of the native population. Certain states like Arizona, California and Texas may see large illegal immigrant populations (as well as urban areas outside these states), but the “problem” is generally localized in these areas. In these urban areas, social services and infrastructure were already under stress. Of course, this is little consolation to the citizens of Phoenix, San Diego or Houston.
There is no doubt that legal and illegal immigration has placed a strain on public schools. For example, ESL teachers are now almost mandatory in many areas, especially border states and urban areas. SAT and NEAP scores for 4th and 8th graders in areas with a large immigrant population fall consistently below national or state averages. One would be hard pressed to find a school district with a large Hispanic population not in need of ESL educators. Proponents of comprehensive reform who state that illegal immigrants do no place a strain on the public school system are certainly misled. That being said,the problem can be overcome with ESL training. Personally, I think it should be called EFSL- English as a First and Second Language. And studies have proven that in programs that stress English language proficiency in immigrants almost to the exclusion of their native language show the greatest academic achievement later in life. Thus, a case that as part of any comprehensive reform learning and being proficient in English should be a requirement.
Regarding crime rates, from 1994 to 2007, the illegal population increased 100% but the violent crime rate in the US decreased 32.4% and property crime decreased 26.4%. However, the Liberal will jump on this statistic and somehow insinuate that illegal immigration has something to do with the decrease in crime rates. That assertion is ludicrous. Prisons are not cheap endeavors and statistics indicate that 25% of the prison population are illegal immigrants or the progeny of illegal immigrants. A great many of them are in jail for drug offenses- a category that is not classified as “violent” or “property.” That may indicate why those crime rates have decreased over the years.
With health care, there is a direct relationship. Obviously, states with large illegal Hispanic populations expend more on health care than states with low populations of these people. The Rand Corporation estimates that 78% of illegal immigrants have no health insurance whatsoever and that 87% of these costs are attributable to child birth, or complications from it. It is estimated that the Federal government expends $1.1 billion annually on these costs with $321 million being paid out of pocket and the remainder by the states.
Regarding the drain on state treasuries, it is generally considered that low skill immigrants (legal or illegal) are a net gain. North Carolina determined that illegals cost the state $61 million annually, but contributed $9 billion to their economy. Likewise, in Texas, illegals cost the state $1.8 billion, but generate $17.7 billion to the state economy.
The primary drain on state (and Federal) treasuries is lax control over welfare eligibility requirements. Contrary to popular belief, illegal immigrants are denied access to welfare programs yet we know they do collect benefits. This is achieved through fraudulent Tax Identification Numbers (TINs). Child Tax Credits (CTC) and Additional Child Tax Credits (ACTC) convert to refundable credits when tax liability is reduced to zero. In 2007, there were 774,000 CTC filings costing $620 million and 1.22 million ACTC filings costing $1.78 billion. In 2007, a total of $2.4 billion was refunded under these programs with 16% (or $412 million) refunded to illegal immigrants. An internal IRS report indicated that 87% of TIN applications contained errors or failed to produce supporting documents. In 2007, the same TIN was used by multiple persons 55,000. To qualify for the CTC or ACTC, all one needs is a TIN or SSN.
All these “problems” and statistics are cited to underscore the fact that solving the alleged ill effects of illegal immigration are certainly related to reform in other areas. For example, for infrastructure improvements and upgrades due to population growth, wouldn’t it make greater sense to allow state and local governments greater leeway in determining the most worthy projects rather than the top-down, Washington dictated system that now exists which often translates into huge pork barrel expenditures? True, fundamental educational reform dictated at the state and local level to address state and local problems makes better sense than mandates issued from Washington that create a one-size-fits-all mentality that unfortunately “leaves children behind.” The statistics prove that those immigrants, whether here legally or illegally, who master and use the English language perform better later in life. Of course, proven mastery of the English language should be a prerequisite for American citizenship. There is nothing racist in insisting on this. A common language is what glues a society together and people can say what they want, but English is the language of America. If they wanted it any other way, then the Spanish Armada should have performed better years ago. With the costs associated with health care, true health care reform, not Obamacare, which stresses reducing costs first, then expanding coverage is a must. It would benefit every American citizen and those that suck off the tax payers. Fundamental tax reform that is fair and simple would eliminate the loopholes in the code that allow illegals to collect under the CTC and ACTC as well as other programs. Reform of our drugs laws that allow law enforcement to go after the big fish rather than the minnows that overcrowd our prisons and jails is also suggested. Perhaps, the use of special drug courts should be a consideration to alleviate the obvious strains in this area.
And there is absolutely no reason why the government cannot move on multiple tracks simultaneously. Immigration reform need not be achieved through some IRCA-like legislation, but can be addressed through legislation in other, seemingly less obvious areas like transportation, health care, education, drug laws and tax reform. Most importantly, the incendiary accusations, misrepresentations, and occasional lies on both sides need to cease.