Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Last week, the Heritage Foundation released a report on the fiscal impacts of low skilled workers that is sure to have major influence on the immigration debate. In the study, researchers found that low skilled workers, defined as those without a high school diploma, will cost the United States $3.9 trillion over the ten years. This estimate is based on the fact that low-skilled workers (whether citizens or immigrants) have historically received the greatest bulk of government services - including Medicaid, food stamps, public housing and other forms of welfare. In fact, the Heritage report estimates that each low skilled household annually receives $22,449 more in benefits than it pays in taxes. When taking into account that 9 percent of native born Americans and 25 percent of legal aliens lack a high school diploma, the Heritage Foundation arrived at its trillion dollar estimate.

The Heritage Foundation study did not take into account illegal aliens in the U.S., who are generally ineligible for federal government benefits. However, the study suggests that if Congress grants amnesty to the 11-20 million illegal aliens, such a move would come with a staggering price tag. Granting amnesty would make newly legalized aliens eligible for all of the benefits the U.S. welfare system has to offer. That, coupled with the fact that 50 percent of the illegal alien population is low skilled (with an annual net cost of $22,449 per household), means that the cost would well exceed $3.9 trillion.

The Washington Times described several Members' reactions to the release of the Heritage Foundation study. "It should serve as a warning to President Bush and lawmakers proposing to give illegal aliens a so-called path to citizenship or what critics call amnesty," said Lamar Smith (R-TX), Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee. "We need to make sure any legislation does not further strain government services and taxpayers' wallets." House Immigration Reform Caucus Chairman Brian Bilbray (R-CA) mirrored Smith's sentiments: "The Heritage Foundation report proves what we already know, that illegal immigration is a drain to the American people….At more than $22,000 [net cost per household] a year, it's like having the American taxpayers buy everyone who doesn't have a high school diploma a brand new Ford Mustang convertible."

Hundreds of Illegal Aliens Arrested in ICE Crackdown

In a two-week long operation ending last week, Federal Agents arrested 359 illegal aliens in the southern California's North and Imperial Counties. The immigration enforcement effort, which began March 20, was part of Operation Return to Sender, a Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) initiative meant to arrest and deport fugitives and illegal aliens.

According to the North County Times, the arrests netted violators from 15 countries, including 50 illegal aliens with criminal records for violations including child sex offenses, robbery and drug violations. Moreover, 61 of the arrested illegal aliens were fugitives who ignored deportation orders issued by immigration judges. An additional 39 of the arrested were previously deported from the United States. "All these individuals had their day in court," Rob Baker, head of the ICE operation stated to the San Diego Union-Tribune. "They had a final order of removal and they chose to ignore the judge's order."

The Union Tribune reports that while the operation was successful in removing criminal aliens, it nevertheless received criticism from Latino advocacy groups in the area. "Folks really felt they were being victimized by these agents," said Christian Ramirez with the American Friends Service Committee. "At least four families were left without the breadwinner." In response to the criticism, Mr. Baker said, "We're not stopping people on the street. We're not busting doors down." Baker did say, however, that ICE agents were not going to look the other way. "If they're in this country in violation of the law, we're going to deport them," he said.

Dozens of Members Sign Letter to House Speaker Pelosi to Urging Her to Block Amnesty Legislation

In a pre-emptive strike to stop guest worker amnesty legislation, a coalition of 97 Representatives sent a letter last week to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) urging her to oppose efforts to put the estimated 12 million illegal aliens in the U.S. on a path to citizenship. The letter read: "Amnesty hurts vulnerable American workers, burdens American taxpayers, and rewards lawbreakers…And it tells all those who have patiently waited abroad for their turn to come to the United States that they are foolish."

Commenting on the letter to the Speaker, Immigration Reform Caucus Chairman Brian Bilbray (R-CA) said, "Repeating the failed policies of the past will only induce the problem of illegal immigration in America….Rewarding illegal behavior sends the wrong message to the millions of people around the world waiting their turn to legally come to the United States - what part of illegal don't people understand?" Congressman Lamar Smith (R-TX), Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee, stated, "Proposals that grant amnesty to illegal immigrants only encourage others to enter illegally. Such legislation would create an endless stream of guest workers who drive down wages and take the jobs of American workers, including legal immigrants."

Both Speaker Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) have pledged to pass some form of immigration reform before the August recess of Congress. While it is unclear at this point which proposal will ultimately be considered on the House floor, many Members are concerned that back-door negotiations will place guest worker amnesty legislation - much like the unsuccessful 1986 amnesty - on the fast track for passage in Congress. Indeed, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has already declared he will set aside time during the second half of May to debate a guest worker amnesty bill on the Senate floor.

Fourteen Travel Agents Caught Smuggling Illegal Aliens
Fourteen Arizona travel agents were indicted on various felony charges following a yearlong investigation by the Arizona Financial Crimes Task Force on the agents' roles in facilitating the entry of illegal aliens into the United States. The charges - including human smuggling, racketeering, conspiracy, and money laundering - were filed after undercover state law enforcement agents posed as smugglers and went to the travel agencies to arrange flights for customers they identified as illegal aliens. "It was not simply the act of selling the ticket, but actually doing so while they were aware its use is to smuggle a human being," said Andrei Chery, the Arizona Assistant Attorney General in charge of the case.
The travel agents not only produced plane tickets for the supposed illegal aliens, but also coached the 'smugglers' on ways the aliens could best fool airport security - and even suggested places where they could obtain fake identity documents. "They were so blatant about it because they hadn't been touched," Phoenix Police Lt. Vince Piano said to the Associated Press. "They would say, 'OK, you need to dress them like this. You need to walk them in through this. Does he have an ID?"
While the charges were based on the sale of tickets to undercover officers, the Associated Press reports that that the evidence indicated that the travel agents received more than $2 million since mid-2005, covering an estimated 6,800 illegal aliens. State law enforcement officials suggest that the increased use of air travel for illegal aliens is due to the fact that it is less risky than the long, perilous land trips.