Thursday, November 30, 2006


The costs of illegal immigration

By Bill Leonard, State Board of Equalization

The Claremont Institute has posted a short piece about the cost of illegal immigration to society, which I encourage you to read:

Along with some excellent statistics about the financial burden of illegal immigration, the Claremont folks cut to the central philosophical issue of allowing unfettered illegal immigration of around 500,000 people per year. They remind us that the American social compact is that government operates by the consent of the people and those who are not citizens therefore do not have the same obligation that citizens have with respect to how we act towards each other. They write:

“While the principles of the Declaration of Independence guarantee all human beings certain natural and unalienable rights, only parties who have consented to our government deserve the full rights of citizenship. Illegal immigrants are not part of the social contract giving legitimacy to this government. American citizens have not given their consent to higher taxes, crowded schools, jammed emergency rooms, clogged roads, unlawful turning of single-family homes into hotels or apartments into tenements, forced multicultural amenities such as bilingual education and multilingual ballots, or welfare and other services subsidizing poverty-prone immigrants. Above all, they never consented to higher crime rates.”

A couple of the statistics cited in the piece:

In 1997, the National Academy of Sciences found that immigrant-headed households placed a net annual fiscal burden on California native-born residents of $1,178 per household.

While the poverty rate is going down for all groups of American citizens, the number of poor Hispanics is up by 3 million since 1990. Last year 13 million Hispanics lacked insurance. They're 60 percent of the rise since 1990 (source: Paul Samuelson).

I agree with the assertion that a certain level of legal immigration is helpful for the American economy -- and there are cultural benefits as well. But the Claremont Institute reminds us that the reason America works is because of liberty. Illegal immigration undermines liberty insofar that liberty only works if people uphold their obligations as citizens. Without this relation between the governed and the government, we cannot be a free people.

The financial cost of illegal immigration is horrendous, but perhaps more important is how illegal immigration undermines the foundation of our democratic republic. While illegal immigrants from Mexico may be importing a hard work ethic, they also import the cultural after-effects of the Mexican revolution that has made Mexico such an illiberal country.