Opinion | Immigration

Ann Coulter: Surprise! That 'cheap' immigrant labor costs us a lot

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We could pay for every idiotic boondoggle proposed by the 300 Democratic presidential candidates if the current president would simply keep his central campaign promise to build a border wall and deport illegal aliens. (Back off - "illegal alien" is the term used in federal law.) 

A 2017 study by the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) found that illegal aliens cost the American taxpayer - on net - $116 billion a year.

That's pretty high, but the actual number is more likely triple that.

Straight out of the chute, FAIR assumes that there are only 12.5 million illegal immigrants in the country, approximately the same number we've been told for the last 15 years as we impotently watched hundreds of thousands more stream across our border, year after year after year.

The 12 million figure is based on the self-reports of illegal aliens to U.S. census questionnaires. (Hello! I'm from the federal government. Did you break the law to enter our country? Now tell the truth! We have no way of knowing the answer, and if you say yes, you could be subjecting yourself to immediate deportation.)

More serious studies put the number considerably higher. At the low end, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Yale study last year put the number of illegals at 22 million. Yet Bear Stearns investment bank had it at 20 million back in 2005, and Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporters Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele reported in 2004 that 3 million illegals were crossing each year - so simple math would put it at well over 60 million today.

So, right there, the FAIR study underestimates the tab for illegal immigration by at least a factor of three, meaning the real cost is about $350 billion a year. That's triple what Sen. Elizabeth Warren's (D-Mass.) free college tuition plan will cost in a decade.

I don't mean to bash FAIR. It's sweet how immigration restrictionists always bend over backward to be impartial. But their circumspection doesn't mean the rest of us have to ignore reality.

Journalists' usual method of determining the cost of "unauthorized entries" - as they say - is to phone some fanatically pro-illegal immigration group, such as Cato or CASA, and get a quote sneering at anyone else's estimate of the costs.

In a deeply investigated 2017 Washington Post article, for example, the Post cited the "belief" that illegal aliens "drain government resources." Without looking at any facts or figures, the reporter disputed that "belief" with a quote from Cathryn Ann Paul of CASA: "It's a myth that people who are undocumented don't pay taxes."

So there you have it! Cathryn Ann Paul says it's a "myth." Now let's move on to the vibrant diversity being gifted to us by illegal aliens.

Earlier this year, The New York Times mocked President Trump's tweet saying illegal immigration costs "250 Billion Dollars a year" by quoting big-business shill Alex Nowrasteh of the Cato Institute: "There's no basis to any of those numbers about the fiscal cost." Am I doing OK, Mr. Koch?

The Times further explained that Trump's figure "did not take into account the economic benefits of undocumented immigrants" - for example, the surprisingly affordable maids of some reporters.

Randy Capps of the Migration Policy Institute told the Times that studies of the cost of illegal immigration count only the costs or only the benefits. "They tend to talk past each other, unfortunately," he said.

Well, the FAIR study counted both. For every dollar illegal immigrants pay in taxes - fees, Social Security withholding taxes, fuel surcharges, sales and property taxes - they collect $7 in government benefits: schooling, English as a second language classes, hospital costs, school lunch programs, Medicaid births, police resources and so on.

A few years ago, the Heritage Foundation's Robert Rector looked at the winners and losers under our government redistribution system and found that in 2010, households headed by illegal immigrants received $14,387 more in government services than they paid in taxes.

Legal immigrant households also were big winners, receiving $4,344 more in government services than they paid in taxes. (Our government does a fantastic job deciding who can immigrate here.)

Only with nonimmigrant households does the government almost break even, doling out a mere $310 more in benefits than those households pay in taxes. (Surprise! The deficit is on track to hit $1 trillion next year.)

Like FAIR estimates, Rector's study accepted the U.S. Census Bureau's allegation that we've had the same number of illegal aliens in this country since the beginning of the Bush administration. Also like the FAIR study, Rector's examination counted only the obvious costs imposed on us by illegal immigrants - things such as health care, education, fire and police protection, parks, roads, and bridges.

But there are all sorts of costs that no one ever counts. What about Americans' lost wages to illegal immigrants who are willing to work for $7 an hour? Even if they don't apply for unemployment insurance, how do we count the cost of suicide, opioid addiction or other anti-social behavior? 

Why not count the lost wages themselves? We want to know the cost-benefit ratio to those already here, not to the new total that includes the illegal immigrants. If it's a net negative to those already here - well, that's the point.

And what was the tab of illegal immigration to the family of Kate Steinle, the young woman shot dead by an illegal immigrant in San Francisco in 2015? There were obvious, tragic costs, of course - but there also are hidden costs, such as the lost productivity of the people close to Kate for years to come, the additional police presence around the San Francisco pier where she was killed and the reduction in tourist dollars.

We hear about the great largesse bestowed upon us by illegal immigrants all day long. The only hidden benefits are the warm feelings of self-righteousness that the CASA spokesman gets when bleating about illegals and the happiness that cheap servants bring to the top 10 percent.

In Maine, overdose deaths from opioids, mostly Mexican heroin, have skyrocketed in the last decade, up from an already catastrophic 100 to 200 deaths per year to more than double that - 418 in 2018. What is the cost of the state legislature spending weeks debating a bill to provide heroin addicts with Narcan? The cost of more crime and more police?

This isn't to gratuitously mention the fact that completely unvetted, self-chosen illegal immigrants can, in fact, be rapists, drug dealers and cop-killers. It is to say that no analysis of illegal immigration's cost can ever capture the full price.

Ann Coulter is a lawyer, a syndicated columnist and conservative commentator, and the author of 13 New York Times bestsellers. The most recent, "Resistance Is Futile! How the Trump-Hating Left Lost Its Collective Mind," was published in 2018.

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