Want to start an emotional discussion without mentioning Pitt, Penn State or the Steelers? Bring up the subject of immigration.
Everyone seems to have an opinion whether it is good or bad, and how it should be administered. To some, immigrants are vital to our country, and to others they are the root of all our problems. In a series of columns, I will examine one facet of immigration: what it costs this nation and how those costs might be reduced.
On the plus side, many immigrants contribute in very positive ways to our economy. However, a significant number of immigrants cost billions each year in taxes, drain public resources, frequently present safety and security risks, and are a rapidly growing and all too often non-assimilated demographic.
The very real problem is to mitigate the negative and accentuate the positive.
Every year, our Congress struggles to produce a balanced budget. Rancorous discussion ensues regarding how much money gets spent on which items and from where the money will come. One topic that receives scant attention is the incredible amount of money Congress allocates for things it shouldn’t be spending money on in the first place.
First, the government should not be spending taxpayer dollars on illegal immigrants.
Illegal immigrants reside in this country in violation of federal law. Estimates vary, but the number of illegal immigrants almost certainly exceeds 11 million. A 2013 report from the Heritage Foundation estimated that the net cost to the United States is approximately $54.5 billion a year.
They arrive in various ways, whether by crossing our southern border or overstaying their visas. Some are actually “imported” by our government for “policy” reasons. But they arrive in large numbers every year, or at least they did under the previous administration.
Illegal immigrants tend to be low-skilled and have low education levels. The percentage of low- skilled illegal immigrants is estimated to be 40 percent. Despite the fact that they are legally prohibited from receiving state or federal aid, certain states and cities make them eligible for many of the over 80 means-tested welfare benefits that our government provides. These benefits include cash, food, housing, medical and other services.
In many areas of the country, illegal immigrants flood public schools at an average cost of $12,300 per pupil. That number can be significantly higher in many areas. They also consume population-based services such as police, fire, highways and parks. In many areas, they also crowd our jails. Twenty-two percent of the federal prison population consists of immigrants, and 14 percent, or 26,000 prisoners, are illegal immigrants. That is just federal inmates.
Immigration to our great nation is a privilege, not a right. If there is a right involved in immigration, it is our right, as a sovereign nation, to control who enters our country. It is our right to allow in only those who will make a positive contribution and who will assimilate.
We have absolutely no obligation to admit anyone, least of all those who come here to consume our resources, become burdens upon our society, fail to assimilate and to cause disruption. We certainly have no obligation to automatically call the progeny of anyone who happens to be here in any non-citizen status a “citizen.”
We also certainly have no obligation to automatically allow the greatly-extended families of anyone who comes here to come also. We do have every right, and indeed obligation, to expel anyone who enters this country illegally. We have the same right and obligation to expel anyone who may be here legally but who commits a serious crime.
We are constantly told we are a nation of immigrants. The real immigrants to this nation came here legally. They demonstrated that they had family or friends to support them, that they had enough money to support themselves until they found employment, that they had the skills to be employed. They went through the naturalization process. The real immigrants contributed to this nation by hard work. They learned our ways and our language and they assimilated. They became Americans. This is the “nation of immigrants.”
Real immigrants come here legally with the dream of becoming Americans. They contribute to society. They don’t come here to form unassimilated colonies and send America’s wealth elsewhere. They are not the unskilled and net negative contributors to our federal budget. They come with a dream, come with skills, work hard, assimilate, become citizens and realize their dreams.
The Pittsburgh area is a great example of how a large, legal immigrant population makes for a stronger and better country.
California and much of the Southwest are examples of largely uncontrolled illegal immigration.
President Trump has already reduced illegal immigration by more than half, and much more needs to be done. Prohibiting the use of state and federal funds to pay for means-tested programs delivered to illegal immigrants would be a great start. When the “freebies” are no longer available, many of the illegals will most likely leave of their own accord, since they are not here for any other reason. Many others will simply not come.
Here’s a suggestion: As part of the immigration process, include a provision that bans the right to vote for 15 years. Then let’s see how many politicians, particularly on the left, are still interested in promoting mass immigration of any sort.
In the weeks ahead, I will deal with several proposals to limit immigration and control its cost to our economy.
Ball is a Peters Township councilman and the vice chairman of the Washington County Republican Party.