I am aware that the United States is a nation of immigrants. I have been trying to wrap my head around the immigration problem and why it is so politicized. The Pew Research Center says that there were 11.1 million unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. in 2014. President Trump has made claims that our illegal immigrant problem has cost the United States $113 billion annually. Some U.S. based research groups from both the left and right conclude that illegal immigration impacts nearly $2.5 billion in the fraudulent use of Medicaid and potentially $9 billion in unpaid hospital visits or uninsured medical claims. Of course, these are estimates, and each side of the political coin will have differing opinions and data interpretations.
An issue that I was unaware of is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) better known as food stamp programs. An illegal immigrant is ineligible for the SNAP program. However, if an illegal immigrant has an American-born child or children, then the child qualifies and any supporting parent or parents. This is where the law has much gray area. The child cannot be deported because he/she is an American born citizen. Social Services are reluctant, and rightfully so, to report illegal visitors because it would burden an already full child foster program. Next the American child, under federal law, immediately qualifies for Medicaid and the illegal parents can get an emergency waiver if they are in a capacity to support the child. Granted, all the bills are paid but at what cost. I think this is where the political right may have a compelling argument, based on that information, where illegal immigrants are impacting our economy.
The flip side to this discussion is that illegal immigrants do spend a lot of money in this country. Illegal immigrants, despite being taken advantage of financially, will work in jobs that many Americans won’t work or apply for. I can remember a time where construction sites were heavily dominated by American workers usually high school dropouts, perhaps a few nicks on the criminal record or those that enjoyed building in general. Fast forward today, and nearly every construction contract and employment site seem Latino. Why? Are American construction companies exclusively seeking Latinos or are Americans declining that type of work? The same story and observations can be at just about any business today. Has the landscape of America changed so rapidly that legal immigrants are being identified as illegal? There seems to be an argument that this is the case.
In all honesty, a wall on the American-Mexican border is not going to stop illegal immigration. What could change is how the United States current birthing policy may need a refresh. Another suggestion is to halt companies from paying under the table or skirting illegal hiring practices. We could learn valuable lessons from our allies overseas that deal with illegal immigration and businesses that hire them. The penalties are harsh and send a powerful message to play by the rules and pay their fair share.