Guy W. Farmer: The high cost of illegal immigration
April 22, 2011
During a recent family visit to Seattle, I came across some startling statistics about the high cost of illegal immigration. According to the Seattle Times, the state of Washington will spend more than $300 million on illegal immigrants over the next two years as the state is attempting to close a $5 billion budget deficit. Does any of this sound familiar?
Although Washington state has a much higher population, the Pew Hispanic Center estimates that Nevada is home to almost as many illegal immigrants – approximately 200,000 for Washington compared to our 180,000. So the costs are probably comparable when we examine how much we’re spending on illegals in the midst of a state budget crisis. But is the Democrat-dominated Nevada Legislature paying attention to this key fiscal issue? Probably not.
Extrapolating the numbers, I think it’s safe to say that Nevada spends at least $135 million per year on services for illegal immigrants, not counting k-12 education (which the Times survey didn’t cover). The most expensive categories for Nevada taxpayers are some $90 million worth of health care benefits including aid to pregnant women who are ineligible for Medicaid, medical and dental aid for low-income children, expensive kidney dialysis and cancer treatments for indigents, and nursing home care for illegal seniors.
The most startling fact about these statistics is that they don’t include the cost of public education or what the states spend on law enforcement and court costs, including defense attorneys and bilingual interpreters. So the annual cost of providing free services to illegal immigrants could well approach $200 million in the Silver State.
If Nevada lawmakers had the courage to address this issue, the debate would probably sound like it does in Olympia, Wash. “Some Republicans have proposed limiting services to people who can’t prove that they’re here legally,” the Seattle Times reported. But Democrats, who control the Washington Legislature, say budget cuts shouldn’t single out any particular group of residents.
Translation: Cash-strapped states should provide free public services to illegal immigrants and their families. Well, if you believe that, I think you should pay extra to subsidize illegals, and the rest of us should keep our hard-earned tax dollars. Those of us who just paid our federal income taxes have a right to be sensitive about freebies for folks who don’t pay their fair share of the costs of public services like health care and k-12 education.
Do illegals pay their fair share? No they don’t, not by a long shot, which was confirmed by a 2007 Congressional Budget Office study showing that tax revenues generated by illegals (mostly through sales taxes) fall far short of covering the total cost of services provided to those immigrants.
Illegal immigration advocates will once again accuse me of being prejudiced against Hispanics, conveniently forgetting that my late wife was from Mexico and my grown children are Mexican – Americans. Bottom line: The Nevada Legislature should cut off most free services to illegal immigrants.
• Guy W. Farmer, of Carson City, writes frequently about illegal immigration issues.