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  • Amnesty, welfare state can't co-exist

    With Washington clamoring for immigration reform, both the administration and a group of senators have issued principles by which they hope to govern the debate. Each party deserves some credit for their interest – or perhaps guile – in beginning with principles. As they craft the bill, they ought to remember one more principle: financial responsibility.

    President Obama would have us believe that immigration reform will be a net gain for the American economy. More likely, it will benefit some parts of the economy while hurting others – with the greatest consequences felt by low-skilled workers – and achieving a fairly negligible net effect. Meanwhile, it could have very real public costs that ought to figure prominently in congressional deliberations and public demands.

    American citizenship is not free – at least not in the sense that it once was. Citizenship has always been paid for by the blood and sweat of patriots, but we have increasingly added to its costs as we added to its social welfare benefits. With the fairly generous terms of legal permanent residence, green card holders are also able to take advantage of this largess in important ways, including Social Security and Medicare. No country that offers such benefits can afford to give them away to everyone – and certainly not to all of the tired, poor, huddled masses.

    Published: Feb. 5, 2013 Updated: Feb. 6, 2013 9:22 a.m.
    Orange County Register

    Illegal immigrants already avail themselves of a number of welfare programs, including, at least in certain circumstances, Medicaid and food stamps. Allowing them permanent legal residency would probably increase their use of these services, though the costs might be partially offset by increases in their contributions to federal and state taxes. But the biggest potential gains and losses come with their induction into Social Security and Medicare. These programs, which are already the nation's greatest unfunded liabilities, could suffer trillions of dollars in additional expenses.

    Under current policy, green-card holders are allowed to receive Social Security and Medicare as long as they have legally worked in the United States for the 10 years prior to their retirement. Assuming that a 56-year-old immigrant received a green card exactly 10 years ago today, he would be eligible for both programs tomorrow. If his average annual pay, adjusted for 2012, was $25,000, he would have paid approximately $7,000 in Medicare taxes and $30,000 in Social Security. Given the rising costs of medical care, $7,000 is a bargain for a decade or more of care. According to the Social Security Administration's own calculator, he should receive over $1,000 per month in Social Security benefits, thus receiving his entire Social Security contribution within the first three years of retirement.

    Most of the 11 million illegal immigrants living in the United States do not fit this exact profile, but the situation is still quite serious. According to the Pew Research Center, the median age of illegal immigrants is 36, meaning that at least five million illegal immigrants are near or past middle age. And the median household income for illegal immigrants in 2007 was $36,000, nearly one-third lower than that of native-born Americans.

    Granting full-access to most or all of our social welfare programs to current illegal immigrants is potentially only the tip of the iceberg. If current illegal immigrants are granted these benefits, we could see a massive influx of new illegal immigrants looking to ride this wave of immigration reform or hold on for the next one. Extensive social welfare simply cannot coexist with policies that embrace illegal immigrants. Since Congress refuses to cut back the welfare state, they must at least restrict access to it.

    Eric Coykendall is a Research Assistant at the Claremont Institute and a student of politics at Claremont Graduate University.
    This article was originally published in forum thread: Amnesty, welfare state can't co-exist started by Jean View original post