Millions of Americans are looking for work. The federal government is borrowing 43 cents on every dollar it spends. And the economy is dragging along the bottom. Incredibly, and contrary to common sense, some argue that granting amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants will solve all our problems and create jobs, increase revenues and boost the economy. But their claims are built on a foundation of sand.
Caught in a flimsy web of fiction, amnesty supporters confuse illegal immigrants with legal immigrants. We should encourage immigration by highly skilled legal immigrants. But those highly skilled workers aren’t illegal immigrants. They have played by the rules, waited their turn in line and came to the U.S. legally on visas.
The Heritage Foundation found that the average household headed by an immigrant without a high-school degree receives more than $19,000 more in total government benefits each year than it pays in federal, state and local taxes. And the National Research Council found that an illegal immigrant without a high school degree will impose a net cost on taxpayers of $89,000 over their lifetime.
Most low-skilled illegal immigrants who are paid on the books do not pay federal income taxes. In fact, low-skilled workers often receive a check from the Internal Revenue Service. Putting illegal immigrants on the IRS rolls will actually cost the federal government money.
Illegal immigrants also receive huge amounts of taxpayer-funded benefits. The Federation of American Immigration Reform (FAIR) estimates that all illegal immigrants cost taxpayers $113 billion each year. Many states face a fiscal crisis due to costs related to illegal immigration, such as education, healthcare and incarceration of criminal illegal immigrants.
The single largest cause of the fiscal drain of illegal immigrants is the cost of educating their children. FAIR has estimated that the total cost of K-12 education for illegal-immigrant children and the U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants is nearly $29 billion a year.
Healthcare is another big hit on taxpayers. About 7 million illegal immigrants do not have health insurance. The hospitals in the 24 Southwest border counties in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California alone incur $190 million in annual costs for emergency medical treatment of illegal immigrants.
Granting amnesty to illegal immigrants will further deplete taxpayer dollars. If millions of illegal immigrants are legalized, they will become eligible for taxpayer-funded benefits and will further deplete our entitlement programs, which are already on the verge of insolvency.
The Heritage Foundation estimated that if illegal immigrants receive amnesty, the outlay in retirement costs — including Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income — would be at least $2.6 trillion. That is a huge fiscal burden for American taxpayers and equals.
In addition, illegal workers take jobs that rightly belong to U.S. citizens and legal immigrants. More than 24 million Americans are unemployed or underemployed. Meanwhile, 7 million individuals are working illegally in the U.S. These jobs should go to legal workers.
Congress has the opportunity to open up millions of jobs for Americans by passing legislation to require all U.S. employers to use E-Verify. This program quickly identifies individuals working illegally in the United States and protects jobs for legal workers by checking the Social Security numbers of new hires. And it helps turn off the jobs magnet that encourages illegal immigration.
Amnesty, on the other hand, doesn’t put Americans back to work, nor does it stop illegal immigration — it does the opposite. Amnesty encourages more illegal immigration, forces unemployed Americans to compete with illegal immigrants for scarce jobs and eats up taxpayer dollars.
Our national debt and unemployment rate are at record highs. Amnesty will only make these problems worse.
Smith is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.