Guy W. Farmer: The high cost of illegal immigration
Here’s a question for our newly elected Carson City Assemblyman, my friend “PK” O’Neill, and his fellow legislators: Why do you think Gov. Brian Sandoval is asking you to spend twice as many tax dollars — $100 million as opposed to $50 million last year — on English as a Second Language (ESL) programs in Nevada public schools? Could the governor’s humongous $7 billion budget request and proposed $1.1 billion tax increase have anything to do with illegal immigration?
Let’s examine these costly questions. I think a main reason for skyrocketing ESL program costs is President Obama’s recent unilateral decision to grant executive amnesty to some 5 million illegal immigrants, many of them school age children. That decision, combined with the president’s apparent reluctance to enforce our nation’s immigration laws, puts a huge burden on states to educate the mostly Spanish-speaking children of illegal aliens — excuse me, undocumented workers. This problem is especially challenging here in Nevada, which has a burgeoning illegal immigrant population.
According to the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), Nevada has the fastest-growing illegal population in the nation. While the Silver State’s native-born population has grown by 24 percent since 2000, the foreign-born population has exploded by 60 percent to more than 200,000. FAIR added 36 percent of Nevada residents under the age of 18 (school kids) have at least one foreign-born parent.
Although illegal immigrants manage to avoid many federal, state and local taxes, they take full advantage of public education and other taxpayer-funded services, including health care, court and legal services, and welfare. Back in the 2008-09 school year FAIR estimated it was nearly 30 percent more expensive — $9,200 as opposed to $6,500 per year — to educate a limited English language student. We can assume those costs have risen considerably since then. At that time limited English students accounted for nearly 20 percent of the kids in Nevada public schools. Do the math.
While researching this column I came across a provocative Mesquite News editorial by Thomas Mitchell.
“Nevada should demand federal compensation to cover the cost of Obama’s amnesty,” Mitchell wrote, and I agree. “Nevada will be the hardest hit of any state,” he wrote, “because Nevada has twice the percentage of illegal immigrants of any other state and therefore will have to pay twice as much to cover Obama’s generosity.”
Using FAIR statistics, Mitchell asserted Nevada spends at least $570 million per year to educate the children of illegal immigrants. So of course we should demand the Feds reimburse us for costs generated by Obama’s executive amnesty, and newly-elected Attorney Gen. Adam Laxalt should consider filing suit to recover these costs if the Feds refuse to pay.
In addition to public education costs, Nevadans subsidize a variety of “free” services for illegal immigrants and their children. For example, I’d like to know the cost of emergency room services provided to illegal immigrant by Carson—Tahoe Hospital.
I asked the question last time I visited the hospital, but a polite spokesperson dodged the question. And during my 12-year court interpreting career I interpreted for many illegal immigrants — another benefit for illegal immigrants along with “free” public defenders in court. I could go on and on, but you get the idea.
Of course many politicians refuse to address this issue. Republican businessmen see cheap labor and left-wing Democrats see millions of potential voters and assume Hispanic voters love them if they become illegal immigration advocates. Personally, I hope they’re wrong about that because I think most Hispanic-Americans are law-abiding citizens like everyone else.
Guy W. Farmer was married to a LEGAL immigrant from Mexico for more than 40 years.