The federal government could end California’s reckless immigration stance
California has gone off the fiscal cliff. The coronavirus crisis nudged the state over the precipice, but the state got right up to the very edge all by itself. According to projections by the state’s Department of Finance, California is facing a budget shortfall of $53.4 billion, which represents a staggering 37 percent of its $147.8 billion budget.
California, like many state and local governments, is looking for an infusion of cash from the federal government, which itself is accruing mind-numbing amounts of new debt. California likely falls under the heading of “too big to fail,” and its fiscal implosion would create an economic black hole that would suck in residents of the other 49 states. But that doesn’t mean that the federal government cannot set firm conditions for assistance to California and other states whose economies and fiscal health have been devastated by the coronavirus crisis.
Writing in the City Journal, Steven Malanga enumerates the countless ways in which California has been fiscally irresponsible and has acted as though the conditions that have provided Sacramento with enhanced revenues in recent years — a surging stock market and full employment — would last forever. Not mentioned in Malanga’s list of self-inflicted wounds is the California leadership’s closed mind and open wallet when it comes to illegal aliens.
For decades, state and local jurisdictions have gone out of their way to shield illegal immigrants, beginning with Los Angeles’s Special Order 40 in 1979 and culminating with SB 54, a far-reaching statewide sanctuary policy — which includes protections for criminal aliens — signed into law in 2017. Along the way, the state added all manner of public assistance for illegal aliens ranging from in-state tuition and tuition assistance grants, housing assistance, publicly funded health insurance, and countless other taxpayer-provided benefits.
Collectively, the services and benefits that California must provide, and those they’ve chosen to provide to illegal aliens, amount to a $25.3 billion annual burden to taxpayers, as of 2017 — or about 47 percent of the state’s projected budget deficit. And even as the state already had begun its fiscal free fall, Gov. Gavin Newsom still managed to set aside $75 million, augmented by $50 million from private sources, to provide cash benefits to illegal aliens who were not eligible for stimulus checks under the federal CARES Act.
Ending these policies, and those of other states and localities that have adopted similar stances on illegal immigration, must be a condition for federal assistance to state and local governments that have been sent reeling by the coronavirus crisis. President Trump must make it clear to Congress that any legislation that Congress sends his way to bail out state and local governments must be conditioned on those parties repealing sanctuary policies — which are illegal in the first place — and ending nonessential benefits and services to illegal aliens.
It is true that such conditions will be anathema to congressional Democrats, but it also is true that those lawmakers tend to represent states and districts that are in most dire need of federal assistance. It is not the most pleasant way of forcing an end to these self-destructive policies, but it is no different from conditioning assistance to a loved one with an addiction problem on enrollment in a rehab program.
Newsom has said that the federal government has a “moral and ethical obligation” to help California and other states that have been sent over the edge by the coronavirus crisis. If that is the case, then he and the leaders of other states have a similar moral and ethical obligation to end irresponsible social and fiscal policies that got them to the edge. High on that list should be the policies that California has adopted that encourage and reward mass illegal immigration.
Ira Mehlman is the media director at Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), which examines immigration trends and advocates for policy changes.
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