Monday, April 10, 2006

Legal vs illegal migrants: Finally, some numbers

The Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) finally gives us some numbers with which to work regarding immigration, legal and otherwise. The study is long and detailed but includes charts and graphs for those of you with shorter attention spans.

One of the big problems with this ongoing brouhaha over illegal immigration is the moral consideration versus the hard nosed number crunching. All we seemingly see and hear are the moral considerations and we don't get the numbers that we need to analyze the issue in an intelligent and responsible manner. This study goes a long way towards correcting that deficiency. What impresses me most about the study is that the CIS shows that the results of this study are remarkably similar to earlier studies done in 1997 by the National Research Council, in 2004 by the Inspector General's Office of the Department of Treasury, in 1998 by the Urban Institute, in 2001 by the state of Florida and in 1997 by the state of New Jersey.

Here are the conclusions from the Executive Summary of the report, (highlighting is mine):

  • Households headed by illegal aliens imposed more than $26.3 billion in costs on the federal government in 2002 and paid only $16 billion in taxes, creating a net fiscal deficit of almost $10.4 billion, or $2,700 per illegal household.

  • Among the largest costs are Medicaid ($2.5 billion); treatment for the uninsured ($2.2 billion); food assistance programs such as food stamps, WIC, and free school lunches ($1.9 billion); the federal prison and court systems ($1.6 billion); and federal aid to schools ($1.4 billion).

  • With nearly two-thirds of illegal aliens lacking a high school degree, the primary reason they create a fiscal deficit is their low education levels and resulting low incomes and tax payments, not their legal status or heavy use of most social services.

  • On average, the costs that illegal households impose on federal coffers are less than half that of other households, but their tax payments are only one-fourth that of other households.

  • Many of the costs associated with illegals are due to their American-born children, who are awarded U.S. citizenship at birth. Thus, greater efforts at barring illegals from federal programs will not reduce costs because their citizen children can continue to access them.

  • If illegal aliens were given amnesty and began to pay taxes and use services like households headed by legal immigrants with the same education levels, the estimated annual net fiscal deficit would increase from $2,700 per household to nearly $7,700, for a total net cost of $29 billion.

  • Costs increase dramatically because unskilled immigrants with legal status -- what most illegal aliens would become -- can access government programs, but still tend to make very modest tax payments.

  • Although legalization would increase average tax payments by 77 percent, average costs would rise by 118 percent.

  • The fact that legal immigrants with few years of schooling are a large fiscal drain does not mean that legal immigrants overall are a net drain -- many legal immigrants are highly skilled.

  • The vast majority of illegals hold jobs. Thus the fiscal deficit they create for the federal government is not the result of an unwillingness to work.

  • The results of this study are consistent with a 1997 study by the National Research Council, which also found that immigrants' education level is a key determinant of their fiscal impact.

    The CIS provides great detail in their methodology used to compile this report. It's pretty tough to argue with the conclusions based upon the evidence gathered. The fact that this report's results so closely mirror other reports done over the past 12 years which have seemingly been ignored by both side in this fight means that this report's conclusions will probably be ignored as well.

    Maybe we can look at it like this:

    Here is a part of the 500,000 who marched in Dallas. If we are very conservative, we might estimate that one-half of them, or 250,000 were illegal immigrants. Using the numbers from the CIS study, that would be at least $675,000,000 in your money walking around waving Mexican flags -- and that's under the current rules. If all of those people were made legal, you could expect to see $2 billion of your hard earned tax dollars waltzing around under the eagle-with-snake-on-a-cactus banner. And that's just in Dallas. Remember the march in Los Angeles last week? In Tucson? In Chicago? Millions of them marching in your streets costing you billions of dollars.

    And the really discouraging part is that strict enforcement of the current rules, such as they are, to deny your tax dollars to illegal immigrants won't help the $2700 annual per-household deficit. Their American born children will still collect. If you folks in Dallas think that flushing $675 million per year is a damned sight better than $2 billion annually, call and write your congressman now.

    What to do? That's a tough one. Do we have the political will to track down and evict 11 or 13 or 15 million illegal aliens and evict them and their native born American children out of the country? Don't make me laugh. Not even I would propose such a thing. I think that the best we can do is maintain the status quo with respect to illegals currently here. We need to enforce existing law. If they get caught, they have to leave. No more of that ridiculous "Catch-and-Release" currently being practiced. The House Republican proposal to make felons of illegal aliens is pretty dumb, too. If we do not currently toss out those that we catch, how does renaming them "felons" improve our chances?

    About the best we can do is invest the funds necessary to enforce current law and to seal the border. We tell the Mexicans and any other government that starts bitching that when their immigration laws and citizenship requirements and treatment of legal and illegal aliens is consistent with ours, then maybe we'll talk . . . maybe.

    TAGS: , , ,

No comments: