Saturday, November 22, 2014

Immigration Perspective

So much fuss has been made about the President's Executive Order to postpone deportation proceedings for a few million illegal immigrants.  It is truly much ado about nothing.  We have neither the personnel nor other necessary resources to enforce current deportation laws and haven't for years.  So what difference does it make other than to allow illegal immigrants some measure of relief from the fear of being sent home.  All this political hoopla has forced the facts about our current immigration situation and its future to be thrown out with the proverbial baby and bathwater. 

First, let's address how many illegal immigrants there are in the United States.  The somewhat "official number" is 11.1 million.  But "how do it know"? - as the old Thermos joke goes.  Seems terribly precise doesn't it?  Did we ask for a show of hands at a Carlos Santana concert in El Paso?  Did we use spy satellites or sophisticated cell phone stealth monitoring?  Were drones involved?  Nope.  It is pretty simple, actually.  The government comes to that figure by using Census data which records the total number of immigrants living in the United States and subtracting the ones who are here legally.  The result is those who are here illegally.  Doesn't take a math major and the estimate is probably fairly accurate.

Second, let's talk about the cost to our economy of having 11.1 million illegal immigrants living in the United States.  There are four distinct types of costs involved.  Direct benefits which include Social Security, Medicare, unemployment insurance and worker's compensation.  Means-tested welfare benefits which include cash, food, housing, medical and other services.  There are over eighty of those programs available which cost $ 900 billion annually like Medicaid, food stamps (EBT cards), public housing, Supplemental Security Income, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, to name a few.  Public education is a huge expense and costs about $ 12,300.00 per pupil per year.  Finally, there are Population-based services which include police and fire protection, highways, parks and similar services.  The average U.S. household received $ 31,584.00 in these benefits from these four categories in 2010 and the assumption is it is higher today.

Now, to be fair, illegal immigrants do not have access to all of these benefits even if they are gainfully employed and paying some taxes.  However, it is estimated that the average illegal immigrant household receives $ 24,721.00 in annual government benefits while paying only $ 10,334.00 in taxes.  This leaves a deficit of -$ 14,387.00 per household annually.  This means that unlawful immigrants under current laws are responsible for a deficit of $ 54.1 billion per year.  With the amnesty program being proposed by a now Republican-controlled Congress, this figure would drop in the first 13-year interim period and then soar out of control when full citizenship is attained.  At that point illegal immigrants become fully qualified for means-tested benefits as well as health care benefits under the Affordable Care Act.  How bad will it get?  Initial estimates are an annual deficit of $ 106 billion.  When the retirement benefits kick in (Social Security and Medicare), the deficit worsens to $ 160 billion per year.

Hey, what's a few billion, right?  Well, if you consider the average age of an illegal immigrant is 34 they will receive benefits for approximately 50 years.  This means that the lifetime fiscal deficit for just the current number of illegal immigrants would total over $ 6.3 trillion dollars, not counting increases in numbers of immigrants and benefit and health care costs. 

Wake up, now, I can hear some of you snoring.  Do we need yet another Amnesty Plan?  We tried it once, didn't work.  Should the U.S., given our current fiscal deficit, add another six trillion to it over the next fifty years by granting citizenship to persons who have broken the law and entered our country illegally?  Is it fair to those immigrants who took the time and spent the money to enter our country legally?

Let's face it.  Americans are already paying the price for illegal immigrants to be here and they are not going anywhere.  I have first hand experience with this having owned my own business and, unknowingly, employed a few illegal immigrants over a period of sixteen years.  If you would like to read about it, ask me and I will share Ruben's story with you.  In the meantime, however, what should we do?

I think amnesty with a path to full citizenship is the wrong approach.  I think we need to have a plan to identify undocumented immigrants with a carrot/stick approach.  Encourage them to come forward and identify themselves.  If they are gainfully employed and have never committed a crime we should issue them a new kind of status....let's call it a "Red Card" for lack of a better designation.  A "Red Card" would grant the person and his family legal status to remain in the United States as long as they are gainfully employed, do not commit a felony, pay all federal, state, local and property taxes, comply with existing and future laws and mandates (Obamacare) and, in general, pose no threat to the United States, themselves and/or their neighbors.  Any violation of any of those conditions would mean an instant review of their status and eventual, but certain, deportation.  They would not have the right to vote.  They would not be eligible to run for or hold public office.  They would have to annually inform the government of their location, place of residence and employment status.  They would pay Medicare taxes and eventually receive those benefits.  However, their payments and their employer's match would not go into the Social Security system, but would, instead, go into a privately-held retirement account and no past payments made to false SS accounts would be available.  No citizenship would be offered unless they returned to their country of origin and applied for citizenship through conventional channels.  However, I think some thought ought to go into simplifying and streamlining that process so that it does not take five to ten years to complete and thousands of dollars in attorney fees and bribes.

O.K., there are my thoughts on this issue.  It is much more complex than I have detailed here, but at least it is a start.  What are your opinions on the matter?   Let me hear from you.