For the second time in as many weeks I've heard someone claim that illegal immigrants are costing us more than they're bringing into our economy. That the burden they're putting on our health care and judicial systems outweigh any benefits they're providing to our economy.

I just can't and don't buy it. The impact of their reduced labor trickles though every facet of our economy, from the fruits and vegetables we're buying to the homes we're living in. Labor by an immigrant, probably illegal, had something to do with bringing the cheap produce to your table and building the roof over that table. How anybody can say these costs are less than the health care and services our government is providing is beyond me.

Think just for a minute of the effects that deporting every immigrant would have on our economy. Costs of produce would triple or quadruple, if fresh fruits and vegetables were available and not rotting in the fields. The cost of new homes would sky rocket, some people I've talked could easily see the cost doubling, if it didn't triple. So as the costs of essential goods and services start to increase at a exponential rate our pay, for those of us lucky enough to stay employed, will stay relatively the same. You think the stories, that's all they really are any more isn't it, of the Great Depression were rough the economists I've talked to say this wouldn't even compare.

President Bush and his staff seem to understand the effects, and they're being crucified for it.

I don't feel amnesty is the answer, but I think it's a far better alternative to firing up the cattle cars and going along with mass deportation.

I've heard several people call for the documentation of guest workers. Make sure they've got their papers signed and that they're here legally and contributing to the social services they're receiving by paying taxes. There's a problem with this mindset. Depending on their "native" country there's a pretty good chance that their income taxes won't go to our government, but to the coffers that line their government's pockets. Why do you think so many actors, actresses and other multimillionaires have claimed dual (primary) residency in countries without an income tax?

With the processes, laws and treaties currently in place documenting the illegals roaming our countryside will increase our "Manuel" labor costs by at least 30% (a combination of the employee and employer contributions to the tax system). Now ole Manuel can't get by on a 20 -30% pay cut, so he'll either duck the system (like he's currently doing) or he'll find some where willing to cover his salary demands. This pay raise will will inevitably be passed on to us the consumers. I'm not sure about the rest of you, but I sure as hell can't afford a 30% POST tax pay cut.

I'm not saying things shouldn't be changed, they should. I'm just not sure how to go about it. Perhaps we need to rework the treaties or create a guest worker program with reduced contributions for the employer and employee. There isn't a need for the worker to pay into a retirement system they won't be benefiting from and with increased tracking / documentation of immigrants we can ensure that they aren't able to abuse the system.

The only thing I'm sure of sweeping changes to our immigration and border security issues are required. These problems didn't pop up over night and expecting several thousand troops patrolling the border to solve the problem is wishful thinking at best. The troops, since they won't have any official law enforcement capabilities, could be better utilized in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana, where we still haven't recovered from the 2005 hurricane season. If they want to send folks to the border, increase the immigration department's budget and hire more people with the authority to do something and put them on the border.

Placing ten-thousand National Guardsmen on the border to sit by and watch, since they don't and won't have law enforcement capabilities, is a waste to tax dollars and asinine. These folks would be better of sitting at home, at least then we wouldn't have to be concerned for their well being and the extra strain it's placing on their families.

Nothing we do, short of digging a moat or building the next great wall (that we'll tear down in twenty years), will have an affect on the influx of immigrants until some type of arrangement is made with the companies hiring them. Whether it's enforcing our current laws or stiffening the penalties we're sure to fail if we follow the current trend of non-compliance. It's the old "if you build it they will come" adage in full effect. As long as employers are willing to hire illegal aliens with little or no retaliation from out government for their misdeeds we'll continue to have an influx of illegals, especially when they receive pay that is equal to or greater than a weeks pay for just a couple hours of work.

We need real reform and change. I'd like to think our elected officials would have learned from their $100 gas refund stunt and realize that the American public isn't easily fooled. Regretfully, with people applauding purely symbolic actions as a "great start", the phinlet's generation will still be dealing with the problem of illegal immigration. Me I like my cheap fruits, cheap vegetables and I like my affordable housing. I'd also like to be free from the threats that a porous border brings with it. If you're going to combine the two issues nothing short of world domination there isn't simple, unmessy, solution. By separating the two, deal first with border security, then with immigration reform, as two separate issues, then we might be able to get something done.
I'm interested to hear what President Bush has to say tonight. Perhaps he'll find a way to convince the extremists on both sides of the issue, that refuse to see a middle ground, that there is a better way. But I wouldn't hold my breath.

In any event let's hope he doesn't go screwing with the cost of peaches.

Posted by phineas g. at 05:49 PM on May 15, 2006 | TrackBack

Please don't hold your breath. It didn't work for David Blaine.

Posted by: agent bedhead at May 16, 2006 02:49 PM

Well, trickle down this. Using a family with 6 children calculate the education costs in your community, and the medical costs, and figure they're not paying taxes except on consumer items. Add to that the prison costs for the gangs, the uninsured motorists, the cost of returning a couple million a year to Mexico, the cost of infectious diseases spreading that many of our doctors have never even seen. Now multiply that by about 4 or 5 million families. Yes, they cost us much more than we benefit from low wages. But even if we did benefit, why would you want a permanent underclass?

Posted by: Norma at May 16, 2006 06:44 PM

I apologize in advance for a long comment.

I am probably the first guy you mentioned that told you that immigrants cost more than they give back, so I guess I should have told you that I have the numbers to support that contention.

Start with the Center for Immigration Studies, which places the net loss per year at more than $10 billion/year in 2002 (it has since shot up), and this executive summary shows numbers built from U.S. Census data.

In addition, illegals hurt salaries for legal Americans a significant percent.


A Harvard University study in 2004 found immigration — both legal and illegal — reduced annual earnings for American-born men by 3.7 percent, or nearly $1,700. For those without a high school degree, the effect was double that, with wages down 7.4 percent.


Immigrants point out they're not just workers. They're consumers with money to spend. At Monday's rallies, they pledged to prove that point by boycotting all spending for one day.

That "spending" is overshadowed, though, by the burden they place on schools and hospitals — draining resources not so much from the federal government, but from states.

"The average native-born household in California paid $1,200 more in taxes than they got in benefits," says James Smith, a senior economist with the Rand Corp. "Almost all of that was because of immigration's effect on California."

Simply Google "cost of immigration" on Google, and choose any source you like. I've not been able to find a single source that says illegals have done anything but cost us more than they bring in. Please feel free to show me contrary evidence.

I'd also like to know what sources you can cite to support your claim that the cost of agriculture and construction would triple. I've heard anecdotal evidence to the same, of course, but I've seen no hard facts to support those claims. History shows that when labor gets too expensive, technological improvements replace those same workers, and those workers move on to different kinds of work. It's pretty much been that way since the Industrial Revolution.

If we do lose $5-$9 billion in agriculture in the first 3-5 years of a crackdown as this report suggests, we'd still come out about $8 billion/year ahead of where we are now. Factor in similar number for construction (which is generous, because illegal alien employment is not thought to be as high) as we’re still coming out billions ahead. No matter how you slice it, illegals cost more than they put back into the system.

I am open to persuasion, it you can find data to the contrary, I just don’t think it exists.

Posted by: Confederate Yankee at May 16, 2006 08:28 PM

This country is a country of immigrants. I've seen the figures that CY has provided so many times. At yet there are intangible benefits that cannot be expressed in economic returns. Each wave of immigrants from the Irish, to the Italians, to the Jews has been met with the same resistance. And yet look at the benefits that America has recieved from those who came before seeking economic, religious, and political freedom. Everyone likes to claim to be Irash on St Patrick's Day. The Italians have given to our culture as have the Jews. Our society is energetic and is kept so by each new wave of immigrants.

I agree the border must be controlled. But trying to deport the millions of illegals is not feasible. The cost of such an effort would be astounding. The cost to our American spirit of opening the doors to the "poor, huddled masses yearning to be free" would be incaculable.

I am one of those dreamers who wish that there could be no constraints on the number of immigrants that are allowed in. I just remember the harm of the quotas that were in place before the WWII and the number of Jewish lives that were lost because our borders were closed to them.

Even when Reagan granted amnesty to the illegals, I didn't mind. I do not mind it today.

But the porous border does need to stop because of concerns I have about security.

Posted by: seawitch at May 17, 2006 01:22 PM