State, nation should not grant amnesty
Last Wednesday, Los Angeles City Council members approved the creation of a controversial city identification card that could be used by illegal immigrants to open bank accounts and access city services, such as libraries. The purpose of the cards is to incorporate Los Angeles’ vast undocumented population into civic life.
This new policy only exacerbates America’s fragile immigration situation by granting illegal immigrants a confusing partial-citizenship status. Yet proponents continue to push for these kinds of measures under the guise of fighting inequality.
In reality, Los Angeles’ new card represents nothing but another step toward total amnesty for the nation’s undocumented immigrants — something that should be avoided as it could irreparably damage state economies for years to come.
Many argue that taking strong steps toward making illegal immigrants legitimate members of the U.S. community is long overdue. L.A. City Councilman Ed Reyes described the new city card as a measure that “allows people who have been living in the shadows to be out in the light of day.”
But there are serious and long-reaching effects to bringing illegal immigrants “out of the shadows” that cannot be overlooked. Most significantly, giving illegal immigrants the ability to open American bank accounts and pay taxes on utility bills is a step in the direction of eventually granting them amnesty, not in the direction of repairing a broken border. Though many humanitarian and political arguments exist for reforming our system to accommodate current illegal immigrants, it’s equally pressing that Congress finds a way to stem the issue at the source. Offering services to illegal immigrants only perpetuates the dilemma at hand.
According to the Federation for Immigration Reform, the cost of services — ranging from education to health care — used by illegal immigrants in California is already a staggering $21.8 billion a year. And The Center for Immigration Studies found that, after amnesty, Medicaid charges alone for current illegal immigrants would cost California $8.1 billion more annually. Social security, Medicare and education expenses would add even more on to that.
This is all to say that, considering a state deficit estimate that swelled to $16 billion this year, California is in a fiscal bind and simply cannot afford the additional cost that granting amnesty to illegal immigrants would bring to the state.
Nevertheless, it is widely believed that illegal immigrants greatly benefit our economy by working in valuable but undesirable jobs. Though it is true that illegal immigrants make up a portion of California’s workforce, the low wages that these jobs often offer would not be enough to cover the cost of granting amnesty with tax revenue. According to a 2011 report from the Center for Immigration Studies, the average per-person household income for illegal immigrants is $12,991 — about $15,000 less than that of American citizens. And illegal immigrants account for 9.9 percent of all U.S. residents in poverty.
Also, adding millions of workers to the American job market at a time when unemployment is still perilously high is nothing short of irresponsible. Just to put things in perspective, the version of the DREAM Act that Obama passed as an executive order earlier this year could alone add 1.8 million job seekers to the U.S. market, according to a Fox News report.
Los Angeles’ decision to approve city identification cards is a step in the wrong direction for a state and a nation that needs to fix, not support, the issue of illegal immigration. The mixed message that the card and its services send puts America into a bind that will make it even harder for Congress to effectively control the influx of illegal immigrants.
Ryan Townsend is a sophomore majoring in business administration. His column “The Blame Game” runs Tuesdays.