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To End Border Crisis, Stop Subsidizing Illegal Immigration

A “big beautiful wall” may be a deterrent, but ending the welfare state could disincentivize illegal immigration.

Illegal border crossings spiked 173% in February from the same time a year ago. Even the most conservative estimates – factoring in recidivism, omitting field office encounters, and concentrating on Border Patrol data – confirm what Republicans are handwringing about: There is a crisis at the southern U.S. border. Should the blame fall on President Joe Biden? It is easy partisan gamesmanship to point the finger at the new administration, but the real and most significant culprit for the mess unfolding today has been years of subsidizing illegal immigration at all three levels of government by both parties.

Taxpayer Subsidies for Illegals

One of the chief economic principles is that when you subsidize something, you get more of it. There is an old story about a small Italian town that was facing a viper invasion. Officials established a viper bounty they thought would eradicate the problem: pay people to kill and hand over the dead snakes. The problem was that folks began breeding these reptiles in their basements to collect the reward.

Across the United States, various jurisdictions incentivize people – directly or indirectly – from impoverished Latin American nations to venture thousands of miles and sneak across the border for an opportunity at a better life.

In 2019, California Governor Gavin Newsom (D) made his state the first in the nation to provide government-funded health benefits to low-income adults 25 years of age and younger residing in the U.S. illegally. This policy is an expansion from the previous program that gave children taxpayer-subsidized health care. The $100 million initiative was slammed by Republican lawmakers, warning that it would serve as a magnet for additional unlawful entry into the country.

Since 2001, Texas has allowed undocumented students to qualify for in-state tuition. Under the current law, illegal aliens can receive in-state tuition if they have lived in the Lone Star State for three years, graduated from a Texas high school, and promise to apply for legal status. Texas was the first in the nation to give this type of benefit, leading other states to embrace comparable policies. Oregon, Delaware, Rhode Island, and a dozen others have adopted similar tuition-free programs for undocumented students.

And this is in addition to the many undocumented students who receive free elementary and secondary education.

Last year, New York allowed illegal immigrants to apply for driver’s licenses. In January, New Jersey approved new regulations permitting driver’s licenses for undocumented aliens. Several other states have given driver’s licenses to the population residing in the country illegally.

As part of the 2021 fiscal year state budget, Illinois enacted a new measure that lets elderly undocumented migrants become eligible for Medicaid coverage.

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, governors and lawmakers nationwide have been working to hand out financial aid to illegal immigrants since the CARES Act excludes unauthorized people:

  • The Golden State launched a $125 million fund for 150,000 people living in California without legal authorization.
  • A mayoral office for immigrant affairs in Baltimore, MD, put together an emergency fund to “help families achieve economic stability by using funds towards rent, utilities and/or other basic needs.”
  • The Oregon state legislature poured $20 million into the Oregon Worker Relief Fund that provides temporary financial relief to illegal immigrants.
  • Minneapolis, MN, created a $5 million fund for housing assistance and forgivable loans for small businesses – the initiative does not consider immigration status.
  • The State Department of Housing gave $2.5 million to Connecticut landlords whose tenants were undocumented and behind on their rent.

Federal Government Complicit in Border Crisis

At the federal level, Washington is just as responsible for the millions of people who have successfully averted the border authorities. During a 2020 Democratic primary debate, all the candidates on stage agreed to extend government-funded health coverage to illegal immigrants.

“You cannot let people who are sick, no matter where they come from, no matter what their status, go uncovered. You can’t do that. Period. It’s just going to be taken care of. It’s the humane thing to do,” said President Joe Biden during a June 2019 NBC News debate.

No wonder people show up at the border sporting Joe Biden apparel.

[the-uprising align=”left”] But federal benefits of the last 30 years have also served as appealing incentives.

Hospitals and medical clinics are required to provide health care without taking into account legal status. According to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, this costs approximately $2 billion per year in emergency care and another $1.24 billion in infant delivery expenses.

While undocumented workers are ineligible for food stamps, 31% of these families with U.S.-born children use Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.

The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) estimates that illegal immigrants are a net consumer of taxpayer benefits worth more than $100 billion per year. A 2010 study by the Center for Immigration Studies found that the federal government spends more than $22 billion a year on services for illegals. Even imprisoning non-citizens costs the feds roughly $1 billion a year.

Will a Wall Stop the Border Crisis?

Former President Donald Trump’s “big beautiful wall” was designed to stop the flow of illegal aliens, drugs, and sex traffickers. Despite the left championing comparable proposals for years, the Democrats suddenly frothed at the mouth over Trump’s wall – but not for the right reasons. While a border wall might prevent people from coming in, can a tyrannical government eventually use it to keep people from leaving? That said, if politicians are promising illegals the moon plus the possibility of amnesty, why wouldn’t an impecunious family from Guatemala or El Salvador take a gamble on being rewarded to leaping to the front of the line? The entire immigration system needs reforms, and dismantling the incentives could be the first step toward achieving that aim.


Read more from Andrew Moran.

Read More From Andrew Moran

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