Illegal immigrants cost the State of Texas (including its local governments) $8.8 billion per year. This is a staggering sum of money brought about by a steady flow of illegals obtaining public education, criminal justice, and medical care. It amounts to nearly 10% of the State’s total annual expenditures of approximately $90 billion. And 60,000 children of illegal immigrants are born in Texas each year.
Gov. Rick Perry has never said a word in public about this drag on his state’s finances. And given his comments at the last Republican presidential debate we know why. He does not see it as a drag on his state’s finances. He seems to believe the presence of illegal immigrants is a net plus to Texas, particularly if they attend its state universities.
According to the FAIR study, the costs of illegal immigrants outweigh their payment of taxes by 3-1. So why does the governor believe subsidizing tuition for illegal immigrants at Texas state universities is good public policy? He did not say. He merely dismissed those who oppose such subsidizes as heartless. This is absurd. I assume if an errant employee in the state treasurer’s office were embezzling $8.8 billion per year the Governor would put an immediate stop to it, and his failure to do so would trigger an investigation. Why is this different?
It’s different because there is a powerful group in Texas benefitting from the influx of immigrants. The more we learn about the “job growth” in Texas, the more we see who the beneficiaries of the Governor’s policies are. Fully 81% of the jobs created in the state since 2007 are held by immigrants, and half of them are illegally in the country. Immigrants tend to work in low-pay jobs including fast food, poultry processing, and construction.
If these are the jobs the Texas economy is producing, then this is not a model for the rest of the country to emulate. The economy’s very low demand for new workers is felt across the board, not just in these industries. So the expansion of employment by low-wage workers is not the sign of a healthy economy. Rather, Perry has abetted what economists call a moral hazard, a situation where a party, here, employers of low wage workers, engage in risky illegal behavior without regard for its consequences: the loss of employment for American citizens as well as higher state taxes to pay for the illegals.
Mitt Romney is running as proponent of immigration law enforcement. Or so he states when asked. But he is vague on the details. What to do with the millions of illegal immigrants here? Experts in the field of immigration enforcement like to say the illegals will leave voluntarily if they are deprived of employment, the magnet that draws them here in the first instance. This is called “enforcement by attrition.” Romney needs to spell out the details of a plan for stepped-up enforcement by DHS against employers who hire illegal immigrants. The Obama administration has curtailed such efforts to occasional “audits” of the employment files a tiny number of companies which are flagrantly violating the law. But all the Obama DHS demands of the employers is that they terminate the illegal workers. Generally, the employers are not fined, and the illegal workers simply obtain employment somewhere else, without any sanction whatsoever. This is intended to give the illusion of workplace enforcement. To make enforcement by attrition work, we need thousands of new DHS audits of employers in the industries I’ve identified above, and to follow up those audits with deportations of the illegal workers and criminal sanctions on the employers.
We could also encourage illegal immigrants to leave the country voluntarily by depriving them of public services. Such a policy would require changing the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA) signed into law by President Reagan as part of the COBRA in 1985. It requires hospital emergency rooms participating in the Medicare program (virtually all hospitals) to treat everyone who appears regardless of their ability to pay for care. There should be no duty to provide emergency care to people in the country illegally. Doing so is flatly inconsistent with the “compelling government interest to remove the incentive for illegal immigration provided by the availability of public benefits.”
As the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals recognized, “the reason Congress enacted EMTALA in large part was because states generally had not made tort remedies available for the refusal to provide emergency care.” That is to say, American law does not require hospitals to provide care to people who can’t pay for it. Thus, people deprived of care have no cause of action in court against the hospitals or doctors who refuse to treat them for free. So Congress created such a legal right to sue in EMTALA. It was one of Reagan’s errors to sign it into law.
There are many who argue that refusing to treat anyone is immoral. That is a misplaced view. People present in the country should not gain an entitlement to care as a reward for their own prior law-breaking. Romney should phrase his position in these terms, protecting the taxpayers, and he can take the moral highground. And now he can point to Alabama’s new law, just upheld in relevant part by a federal judge over the vociferous objections of the Obama Justice Department, which invalidates any contracts entered into by illegal immigrants in the state, requires public schools to inquire as to the immigration status of students, and forbids the state from providing services to them.
This does not affect the obligations of Alabama hospitals under EMTALA, as that is a federal law. But it is the first state law to address this problem. Initial reports indicate illegal indicate aliens are fleeing Alabama, an a farmer who relies on them to pick his crops, wailed to CBS Thursday yesterday that the only alternative to illegal immigration is “to quit eating.” Apparently no workers showed up at his farm the day after the Alabama law was upheld, and rather accept the unpleasant fact that the jig is up, and basic economics will require him to pay more to attract legal workers, he took to the airwaves to propagate the lie that Americans won’t do unpleasant work. Readers should recall that sewer workers are overwhelmingly white and native born, albeit paid up to $70,000 per year.