January 4, 2023

An Inquiry Into the Cost of Illegal Immigration

Chaos reigns at the border. Our leaders fiddle while the southern border burns.

By Mark W. Fowler

“Border security is the most basic and necessary responsibility of a sovereign nation.” —Kirstjen Nielsen

The present southern border crisis is a disgrace and a disservice to our citizens and the immigrants who come here legally. It need not be this way and is an avoidable crisis. Subsequent to President Biden’s open invitation to immigrants, there has been a substantial increase in illegal immigrants at the southern border. They have come from 140 countries. And while our sympathies lay with those fleeing violence, in reality many are coming just for economic opportunity. George Will once wrote that nations live in a state of nature, by which he meant to imply that nations must attend to their own interests first. There is no higher authority to appeal to address self-inflicted wounds. It is a competitive world, and bad actors will take advantage wherever there is a power vacuum. The present chaotic immigration situation is self-inflicted and has long-term consequences.

Among the first and most important duties of government officials is to preserve the integrity of the boarders. Over one million illegal immigrants have crossed the border since January 2021. That is not immigration; it is an invasion.

Most immigrants are low skilled. Many do not speak English. Their entry into the labor force displaces Americans who are low skilled and depresses their wages. Any observer will have noticed the change in the demography of the construction workforce. Inasmuch as these immigrants do not speak English, teaching English as a second language to their children imposes considerable costs on local school boards. Estimates of the cost of educating these children are as high as $52 billion. Much of this is borne by state and local governments.

Illegal immigrants need medical care. Much of this is supplied through emergency rooms and free clinics. In addition, illegal immigrant women must have obstetric care, and their children as American citizens are entitled to subsidies for health, food, and housing. Estimates for emergency room care and obstetric care are $2 billion and $1.24 billion, respectively.

There are 51,000 illegal immigrants in custody with the United States Marshalls Service or the Bureau of Prisons at a cost of $88 per day per prisoner. This amounts to $4.5 million per day and $1.6 billion per year. There are 297,000 illegal immigrants in state prisons and jail. Estimated costs for this cohort is about $8 billion per year. What is harder to calculate is the loss of life, damaged property, and injuries sustained as a result of illegal criminal activity.

It is difficult to estimate the net costs of illegal immigration because accurate figures of immigrant use of public services are not available. According to the General Accounting Office, the estimates vary from $2 billion to $19 billion per year. However, you as a citizen must report transactions over $600 to the IRS. What did you think the authorization of 87,000 IRS agents was for?

In their journey across the border, many illegal immigrant females are subject to rape and sexual abuse. Some fall prey to sexual traffickers. Drug cartels make a fortune extorting cash from the illegal immigrants to assist them in their journey. With an ordered system, drug cartels would lose this source of cash and be weakened. Once in the country, many die just across the border. In 2018, the Washington Examiner reported the following predicted events suffered by illegal immigrants: 2,200 deaths from homicide, 180,000 rapes and sexual assaults, 138,000 physical assaults, 81,000 cases of drug smuggling, and 27,000 case of human smuggling. Customs and Border Patrol reports 856 deaths in 2022 among illegal immigrants. Ranchers and farmers along the border report cut fences, break-ins, and theft of property.

Title 42 was a health law provision used to return many immigrants. Knowing its provisions would expire this year, the Biden administration has done nothing to formulate a plan to deal with an expected surge of immigrants. In a suit before the Supreme Court, two justices testily dissented in an opinion keeping Title 42 in place temporarily, noting that the Court is not a policymaker of last resort, given the failure of the Congress and the executive branch to address this issue. The Democrats are for unrestricted immigration; the Republicans, ever full of sound and fury signifying nothing, have made no proposals to address this.

In the meantime, chaos reigns at the border. Our leaders fiddle while the southern border burns.

What is needed is simply enforcement of the existing law. If we allow unrestricted immigration, we must deny immigrants welfare services. If we wish to have open welfare benefits, we must limit immigration. You cannot have open borders and unlimited welfare. Immigrants must come ready and able to support themselves. Otherwise, the flood of illegal immigrants will be limitless, and this we cannot afford. Asylum seekers must remain in the first country they flee to pending asylum determinations (which, when faced with their own dilemma, will become more willing to secure their borders and not kick the can down the road.). Limits must be established on how many immigrants we will accept. Asylum claims should be decided within 30 days, and those not obtaining it must be deported. As it stands, only about 12% of those seeking asylum actually deserve it.

The issue should be removed from Vice President Harris’ portfolio. She has definitively demonstrated she cannot handle it. Finally, Secretary Mayorkas should be fired for lying repeatedly about the border being closed. But none of this will happen. The buck has not stopped at Biden’s desk. It ran over him.

Mark Fowler is a board-certified physician and former attorney. He can be reached at [email protected]

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