Nonsequitur: The Cost of Amnesty
July 29, 2014
President Obama has announced that he will bypass Congress and use executive action to unilaterally “fix” the immigration crisis. Most likely, the President will order a broad amnesty for those illegal immigrants already in this country. It is doubtful that he will also do what most Republicans want in any immigration fix and secure the border. Aside from the Constitutional questions such unilateral action would raise, the real question is whether such amnesty is in the best interests of U.S. Citizens and our country as a whole.
Last year, the American Heritage released a study reviewing the costs to US taxpayers attached to illegal immigration and the projected costs of amnesty for those who immigrate illegally. The study shows that illegal immigration costs us around $54.5 billion annually. When those immigrants have been formally “means tested” and made eligible for welfare and healthcare, the annual cost increases to around $106 billion. As those immigrants become eligible for Medicare and Social Security, those deficit costs increase to about $160 billion. (Full report here.)
Of course, these projections are low, as so far this year, we have added an extra 57,000 undocumented children to the “normal” flow of illegal immigrants from Central and South America, with thousands more expected.
However, the cost of amnesty is more than just billions of dollars of tax payer dollars. It also will have a direct effect on our own citizens, especially lower income Americans.
The thousands of children who we accept will be integrated into our school systems already straining to meet minimum standards. These children will need remedial services for language and math skills, pulling resources away from our mainstream students. These children will also need high levels of health screenings and medical treatment to prevent transition of such diseases at tuberculosis, scabies and polio from spreading to the mainstream student populations. Educational services such as Head Start and free lunch programs will have fewer dollars available per student. Funding for extra-curricular programs such as athletics, music and art, and students clubs will most likely be cut to provide basic funding for classrooms. Class sizes, of course, will increase significantly.
Healthcare services and providers, already taxed by Obamacare and an aging Boomer population, will have a huge influx of families needing care without employment or other means to pay for them. Medicaid and other public health services will need to absorb these patients, reducing access to doctors and nurses, increasing health care costs, and further adding to both state and federal deficits. Again, a rapid influx of immigrants may expose the primary population to new and returning strains of diseases, putting pressure on our available supplies of vaccines and medicines.
Welfare services of all kinds will face a similar pressure, with hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of new recipients eligible for services. Even raising the federal tax rates would likely not cover expenditures from this increase in demand. Entitlements, already running deficits, would grow in cost significantly. We would need to borrow more and more, adding to our national debt of over $17 Trillion.
In short, the quality of life for a large number of U.S. citizens, perhaps a majority, would be negatively affected in multiple ways by an immediate amnesty for those already here illegally.
There is no easy fix for our immigration problems. But a quick, unilateral amnesty by Presidential edict would do more harm than good. We should immediately secure the border, provide “stop-gap” measures to provide a basic level of care to the immigrant children and their families in crisis, and begin (again) to enforce existing immigration law. Then we need serious negotiations about long-term solutions to this on-going crisis.