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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Cost of Immigration

That immigration helps the US economy is sometimes asserted, often assumed, and rarely questioned. I can see the cost outweighs the benefits where I live, so I'm glad to have found someone writing about the not so hidden costs of illegal immigration.

How Unskilled Immigrants Hurt Our Economy
Steven Malanga
A handful of industries get low-cost labor, and the taxpayers foot the bill.
Because so much of our legal and illegal immigrant labor is concentrated in such fringe, low-wage employment, its overall impact on our economy is extremely small. A 1997 National Academy of Sciences study estimated that immigration’s net benefit to the American economy raises the average income of the native-born by only some $10 billion a year—about $120 per household. And that meager contribution is not the result of immigrants helping to build our essential industries or making us more competitive globally but instead merely delivering our pizzas and cutting our grass. Estimates by pro-immigration forces that foreign workers contribute much more to the economy, boosting annual gross domestic product by hundreds of billions of dollars, generally just tally what immigrants earn here, while ignoring the offsetting effect they have on the wages of native-born workers.

If the benefits of the current generation of migrants are small, the costs are large and growing because of America’s vast range of social programs and the wide advocacy network that strives to hook low-earning legal and illegal immigrants into these programs. A 1998 National Academy of Sciences study found that more than 30 percent of California’s foreign-born were on Medicaid—including 37 percent of all Hispanic households—compared with 14 percent of native-born households. The foreign-born were more than twice as likely as the native-born to be on welfare, and their children were nearly five times as likely to be in means-tested government lunch programs. Native-born households pay for much of this, the study found, because they earn more and pay higher taxes—and are more likely to comply with tax laws. Recent immigrants, by contrast, have much lower levels of income and tax compliance (another study estimated that only 56 percent of illegals in California have taxes deducted from their earnings, for instance). The study’s conclusion: immigrant families cost each native-born household in California an additional $1,200 a year in taxes.

Immigration’s bottom line has shifted so sharply that in a high-immigration state like California, native-born residents are paying up to ten times more in state and local taxes than immigrants generate in economic benefits. Moreover, the cost is only likely to grow as the foreign-born population—which has already mushroomed from about 9 percent of the U.S. population when the NAS studies were done in the late 1990s to about 12 percent today—keeps growing. And citizens in more and more places will feel the bite, as immigrants move beyond their traditional settling places. From 1990 to 2005, the number of states in which immigrants make up at least 5 percent of the population nearly doubled from 17 to 29, with states like Arkansas, South Dakota, South Carolina, and Georgia seeing the most growth. This sharp turnaround since the 1970s, when immigrants were less likely to be using the social programs of the Great Society than the native-born population, says Harvard economist Borjas, suggests that welfare and other social programs are a magnet drawing certain types of immigrants—nonworking women, children, and the elderly—and keeping them here when they run into difficulty.
So much for the argument that illegals pay their taxes. They pay taxes alright. Not nearly enough.

Regarding crime and the counting game Peter Gadiel told the House Committee on the Judiciary:
In 1986, Senator Edward Kennedy, then-Representative Charles Schumer, and other sponsors of amnesty claimed that "only" one million illegal aliens would be eligible for amnesty. In fact, due to fraud in administration, and underestimation of the number of illegals in the United States, over three million illegals were actually granted amnesty.

The investment firm of Morgan Stanley recently estimated that there are over 20 million illegals in the United States. Yet, at a recent meeting with DHS officials, 9/11 FSA Vice-President Bruce DeCell and I were told that Administration statisticians had "worked the numbers" and "only seven million" illegals would apply. That is approximately one third the Morgan Stanley estimate, oddly enough, the same fraction used by sponsors of the amnesty of 1986. The track record of the promoters of the 1986 amnesty in predicting the number of illegals who would be eligible tends to confirm what appears to be common knowledge to nearly everyone in the country today: the 20 million figure is closer to the mark.

In 1986, sponsors of amnesty also assured us there would be safeguards to screen out those who were a danger to our country. Their failure to honor that promise is as clear as their inability to predict eligibility numbers.

The 9/11 Commission itself showed us that the 1986 amnesty resulted in dead and injured Americans. It noted that two of the conspirators (Mohammed Salameh and Mahmud Abouhalima, aka Mahmud the Red) in the 1993 attack on the World Trader Center were illegal aliens permitted to remain in the US because of the 1986 amnesty. A third plotter (Mohammed Abouhalima, aka Abo Halima) was permitted to stay in the US for six years until just before the attack when his application under the `86 amnesty was finally denied. Despite the denial he remained in the US to help carry out the plot he had helped plan during the period he was "legal."
Gadiel goes on to describe the actions taken by state and local governments to deal with illegal immigration, in spite of the concerted opposition of open borders advocates.
For these, the constituent members of the Open Borders Lobby, the suffering and death endured by Americans as a result of illegal immigration is just a cost of doing business. To its eternal shame, the Senate continues to do the bidding of that lobby, demanding that our borders remain wide open to illegal aliens and the criminals and terrorists among them. S.2611 exemplifies the Senate’s mindless support of that destructive policy.
Gadiel's statement is worth reading in its entirety.

So where have our ever-vigilant watchdogs in the media been? The effects of this influx have been blatant. It is not exaggerating to call it an invasion. How has it gone on so long with no debate, no controversy?

Because the conventional wisdom on immigration assumes it to be beneficial, and because the media does nothing to correct this myth. And because of this anyone who openly opposes illegal immigration is accused of possessing one or more character flaws that explain their "irrational" beliefs. That's why the most popular pro-illegal immigration arguments are: Xenophobe! Racist! Fascist!

Either we're crazy or they've got nothing better than ad hominems.

Well then, assuming the latter, I haven't forgotten that for every foul-mouthed race-fixated illegal immigration supporter there's a businessman who simply favors laissez faire immigration. Since his argument amounts to "changes will cost me" I say, too bad, because no change is costing the rest of us even more. If Mr. Wall Street's logic is valid then so is this response.


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