Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Immigration Reform - or ENFORCEMENT?

The Utah Legislature’s Interim Immigration Committee will finish its series of hearings this week designed to discuss and consider issues concerning unauthorized or illegal immigrants in the State of Utah. Apparently efforts are being launched to further weaken, or repeal, the omnibus immigration bill SB 81, which offers some reasonable solutions toward enforcement of existing federal immigration law.

Let’s review a few recent happenings in the immigration news.
  • Last week, a study was released by FAIR on the cost to taxpayers for our neighbors in Colorado. That cost is estimated at approximately $1.1 Billion annually.
  • The Texas Legislature also issued a report declaring that in healthcare, alone, of illegal residents of Texas "cost the Texas government (meaning taxpayers) and local hospital districts $678 million in a year." (Fort Worth Star Telegram).
  • Locally, Kraftmaid laid off 813 in Utah, Bally’s closed, Rio Tinto (Kennecott) announced layoffs, construction employment is reported down in Utah by the thousands. Nationally unemployment claims are increasing.
  • On the legal front, an Appeals Court in California declared Instate Tuition for illegal aliens unconstitutional and decreed all US citizens paying Non Resident tuition should have the difference refunded. Based on residency/school attendance, the California law is similar to the Utah law. There were many warnings given that this concept was in violation of Federal law. Utah will continuing to be subject to tremendous potential liability for millions of tax (education) dollars to those paying nonresident tuition.
    The crux of that federal law is "an alien who is not lawfully present in the United States shall not be eligible on the basis of residence within a State (or a political subdivision) for any postsecondary education benefit unless a citizen or national of the United States is eligible for such a benefit (in no less an amount, duration, and scope) without regard to whether the citizen or national is such a resident."
  • From Arizona, in October, the Maricopa County Attorney released a report which stated "an analysis of all defendants sentenced for felonies in 2007 in Maricopa County Superior Court shows 18.7% to be in the United states illegally." It further reports that illegal immigrants account for 9% of the total population but 16% of violent crimes, 18% of property crimes, 33% of drug crimes and 85% of criminal impersonation or false ID and 96% of human smuggling.

There are effectively two predominant Federal laws concerning immigration that Utah has trouble complying with. First, it is unlawful to EMPLOY an illegal alien. (US Code Title 8, sec 1324a) Second, it is unlawful to aid, abet or encourage an alien to reside on this country (US Code Title 8, sec 1324).
Utah has enacted a Driver Privilege Card, designed specifically foe undocumented immigrants, in can be obtained by simply using two documents as identification, a Matricula Consular card and an ITIN. The Matricula is issued by the Mexican Consulate, the ITIN (Individual Taxpayer Identification Number) is issued by the IRS. An application for an ITIN does not verify identity and is not to be used for identification, according to the IRS.
The supporters of undocumented workers apparently now want to "kill" SB 81 and substitute either a study of the costs of illegal aliens or try to obtain a waiver from the federal government to allow a guest worker program for the State of Utah. This proposal seems designed to accommodate the CURRENT illegal population, NOT to offer compassion to the millions who would love to enjoy the fruits of their labor in jobs now held by illegal aliens, if there will be any left after more unemployment occurs in the midst of this economic recession.

While mentioning health care cost, the proposal ignores education costs which a Utah Legislative audit estimated at a minimum $55 to $97 million three years ago. The 2006 Mexican Consulate sponsored study by the University of Utah stated "Hispanic students will become an ever larger share of Utah’’s students in coming years. In 2001-2002, Hispanics accounted for 5.2% of Utah’’s high school graduates (WICHE, 2003). Given current school enrollments, in 2011-2012 they will account for 14.9% of the graduates, and by 2017-2018 that share will rise to almost 24%."

Census reports confirm this and show large increases in the Hispanic population in Utah, above 25% in many locations and a large general increase in the Hispanic population. It is generally acknowledged a preponderance of illegal immigration comes from south of the border. A student body of merely six percent would indicate an annual cost of $240 million out of the $4 billion school budget.

Immigration Reform (amnesty) may be forthcoming from the federal government. Hopefully, enforcement and economics may cause some reduction in numbers before that happens. If we choose to attempt the guest worker route, we should at least encourage a resolution of the birthright citizenship fallacy. Most countries require at least one citizen parent.
A national Guest Worker program for new workers may a better choice than amnesty (or sale of US citizenship to those who have successfully evaded the law) but it, too, could reward illegal action and behavior. A timely implementation of a strengthened SB 81 will assist in attrition through enforcement AND help to balance Utah’s budget and lower tax burdens.

No comments: