Policy on illegal aliens could cost taxpayers $30 billion

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Policy on illegal aliens could cost taxpayers $30 billion Ralph Z. Hallow THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Published 9/6/01


Rewarding illegal aliens with amnesty would be a financial loser for American taxpayers and a political loser for both Democrats and Republicans, according to an analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data and a just-released Zogby poll. Although President Bush has ruled out a "blanket amnesty," he and Mexican President Vicente Fox are expected to announce the outlines of a new immigration agreement that eventually would have the same effect as amnesty. But such a policy could cost American taxpayers some $30 billion a year, one study suggests. Low-skill immigrants are a net loss to the nation's economy, some researchers say, and illegal Mexican immigrants are 67 percent more likely to use major welfare programs compared to U.S.-born families. The Zogby poll indicates little hope that Mr. Bush and Republicans can gain Hispanic support by granting amnesty to Mexican immigrants, while the same poll shows amnesty is opposed by voters of every political allegiance. Large majorities of likely independent, Republican and Democrat voters oppose amnesty, according to the survey of 1,020 likely voters conducted Aug. 25-29 by pollster John Zogby. The Zogby findings are particularly noteworthy, said Steven A. Camarota, research director for the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), because it is the first national public poll on the subject that asks about amnesty for illegal immigrants without attempting to characterize them with such loaded terms as "hard-working" or "taxpaying" or as "violating our laws." Even a slight majority of likely Hispanic voters oppose amnesty, the Zogby poll found. Only 15 percent of Hispanics would be more likely to vote for Mr. Bush's re-election if he embraced amnesty, while 33 percent said they would be less likely. A majority of Hispanics -- 53 percent -- said amnesty wouldn't affect their vote on Mr. Bush one way or the other. Without helping Mr. Bush among Hispanics, the Zogby polls show the amnesty issue hurts the president among other voters. The survey shows both Republicans and independent voters would be less likely, by more than a 3-to-1 margin, to vote for Mr. Bush if he grants amnesty to illegal aliens. Despite the clear potential for political backlash, Mr. Bush has told aides that legalizing working immigrants is the right thing to do. Mr. Bush and the Mexican president are expected to seek a program that would allow employed but illegal Mexican aliens to get temporary, renewable work permits. The permits would lead, within six to 10 years, to permanent "green card" visas, full citizenship and voting rights. The key will be convincing American voters that such a program is not really amnesty. "We might try to persuade people that it's something other than amnesty, but I'd hate to start so far back as this poll suggests we are," confided a senior Republican party official. It has long been believed that even unskilled immigrants are a boon to the U.S. economy, but that belief is under challenge. A CIS study claims that in 1992 immigrants cost the rest of the nation $29 billion more than they contributed in economic terms. Some researchers see evidence in the government's own data that low-skilled immigrants are a net economic loss to the United States a loss that is likely to grow. "The profits of employers who hire illegal aliens come at a loss to taxpayers who, all studies show, must pick up the tab for illegals' costs to America's schools, health care and criminal justice system," said Phil Kent, president of the Southeastern Legal Foundation. "Some may work hard. But their children, influenced by the entitlements that flow to immigrants, may not. We simply can't afford to underwrite this growing underclass." Mr. Camarota, the CIS research director, finds that "immigrants in general and Mexican households in particular" use more welfare and other means-tested social programs than do native-born Americans. "Among working households, use of means-tested programs by Mexican immigrants is dramatically higher than that of natives," he said. "Thus, high rates of welfare use by Mexican immigrants are not the result of a lack of work [but rather] that a large share of Mexican households have low incomes and unstable employment histories and thus use a great deal of public services. ... Their incomes are low because they have little education, and making them legal residents won't change that fact." Granting immigrants legal residency, as Mr. Bush is considering, does not substantially improve the welfare outlook: "Legal Mexican immigrants are more than twice as likely to use many means-tested social programs as are people born here," Mr. Camarota said. Yet illegal immigrants use welfare programs at even higher rates. While 15 percent of native households use at least one major welfare program, that increases by two-thirds, to 25 percent, for households headed by an illegal Mexican immigrant, Mr. Camarota's analysis found. "The findings also suggest that one possible unintended consequence of legalizing Mexican illegals already in the country would be to substantially increase their use of means-tested programs," he said. An analyst at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, voices a similar view. "Clearly, the bulk of immigrants from Mexico and South America have characteristics that make them very prone for welfare," said Robert Rector, Heritage senior analyst, citing a recent government report that the unwed birth rate among U.S. Hispanics is now at 42.1 percent.

-- K (infosurf@yahoo.com), September 08, 2001

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