The Effects of Illegal Immigration on Society
America is a nation of immigrants and we are better for it. But unlike previous waves of immigration, the current one is uncontrolled and consists mainly of illegal immigrants. In a personal interview, Jack Martin, the Director of Special Projects and Policy for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, says, “At 10-12 million illegal aliens residing in the country and thousands more pouring in every day, the problem is enormous in terms of job competition, depressed wages, and the fiscal impact on state and local governments, to name just several of the impacts” (Interview). Local economies are impacted when earnings are sent out of the country as remittances. Hospitals are flooded daily with waves of illegal immigrants who need serious medical attention but are not insured and do not have a reliable income to pay for the bills. School systems across the nation are struggling to find the necessary resources and funding to provide basic education to unlawful immigrants. Because illegal immigration has become such a significant issue, it is important to ask, “What are the effects illegal immigration has on society?”
If you are a legislator, or a law abiding citizen who is politically active, then you may be interested in studying the adverse effects of illegal immigration on society. Illegal immigration is the act of unlawfully entering into a nation temporarily or permanently or entering legally but remaining illegally (which is unfortunately a major social issue today) (Interview). The three main segments of society affected are as follows: federal, state, and local economies, health care industries, and the K-12 public education system.
Federal, state, and local economies bear the brunt of some of the most serious burdens caused by illegal immigration. One of the main reasons people migrate to this country illegally is to secure a job in the American workforce. These are jobs that could be given to legal citizens and/or immigrants who have gone through the necessary steps to attain citizenship. According to a study in 1996 of the costs of illegal immigration by Rice University economist, Dr. Donald Huddle, illegal aliens were “displacing roughly 730,000 American workers every year, at a cost of about $4.3 billion a year” (What's Wrong With Illegal Immigration). Since then, the number of displaced American workers has approximately doubled, causing the United States unemployment rate to increase and working conditions of the working poor to decrease.
Many people argue that illegal immigrants are “doing the work Americans refuse to do.” However, this is hardly the case. “The current system of open borders is nothing more than corporate welfare--allowing corporations to get cheap labor (Nemko, Marty).” The typical illegal immigrant earns one-tenth of his American counterpart, and numerous businesses are more than willing to hire cheap, compliant labor from abroad (Illegal Immigration 1). When legal residents who expect to be paid a decent wage are competing with illegal immigrants who do not have standards of a decent wage, it is easy for corporations to choose the less expensive laborer. If corporations were willing to pay a decent living wage, then legal residents would gladly do the work.
While illegal immigrants can contribute to society, they do not contribute more than they cost the taxpayer. A study recently released by the Center for Immigration Studies found “that illegals, each year, cost the taxpayer $10 billion dollars more than they contribute. That is not surprising given the above heavy and illegal use of government programs and that illegal [immigrants] report so little income” (Nemko, Marty). Because many illegal immigrants are paid under-the-table or because they earn low wages, they normally contribute little in taxes making local governments pay the bills. And unlike many legal immigrants who are willing to put money back into the economy, illegal immigrants often send the majority of their paycheck back to their home country. “Illegal [immigrants] send large percentages of their United States earnings back to their home country — an estimated $23 billion last year was sent to Mexico alone” (Nemko, Marty). That is at least $23 billion dollars that could have been invested back into the United States economy to create more jobs for legal citizens. If legislators and politically active citizens want to do something to boost the economy for the short and long term, they might start by recognizing the dire effects of illegal immigration.
The impact of illegal immigration on health care is also often overlooked. While there are millions of legal immigrants to the United States every year, it is the illegal immigrants who pose the greatest threat to the health of the public. “They are of the greatest consequence because they are responsible for a disproportionate share of serious public health problems, are living among us for extended periods of time, and often are dependent on U.S. health care services” (Illegal Immigration and Public Health). Because illegal immigrants do not undergo the required medical screening for contagious diseases that is normally required for citizenship, they have set off a resurgence of contagious diseases that had formerly either been totally or nearly eradicated by our public health system. According to the Center for Disease Control, illegal immigrants account for over 65 percent of communicable diseases in the United States (Nemko, Marty). Tuberculosis, leprosy, and pork tapeworm, AIDS, and hepatitis are just some of the diseases that have recently made their way back to the United States due to illegal immigration (Illegal Immigration and Public Health). As illegal immigrants travel across the country searching for work (most often in food processing, construction, and hospitality services), so does the risk of spreading contagious diseases. When we allow illegal immigrants into this country we consequently lower our heath standards and therefore are much more susceptible to spreading deadly diseases.
Current United States law entitles all illegal immigrants and their families to free emergency health care, and many jurisdictions provide far more extensive services than that. Accordingly, illegal immigrants tend to “rely on public health facilities at the taxpayer expense” (Interview). The utilization rate of hospitals and clinics by illegal aliens (29 percent) is more than twice the rate of the overall U.S. population (11 percent) (Illegal Immigration and Public Health). Thousands of illegal immigrants flood our nation’s hospitals daily using millions of dollars worth of supplies and resources that are often needed to treat legal citizens. Emergency rooms, operating rooms, trauma centers, and smaller heath care clinics are often forced to give their attention to illegal aliens in need of help and have forced dozens of hospitals to close or file bankruptcy (Nemko, Marty). While it is important to help those in need, the monetary cost and use of limited resources needed to provide services to these illegal patients are simply unbearable.
Unfortunately, the majority of illegal immigrants are often either uninsured or underinsured. In fact, 59 percent of the growth in the “uninsured population” is a result of illegal immigration and thus the cost of medical care is “passed onto the taxpayer, and strains the financial stability of the health care community” (Camarota, Steven). By dramatically increasing the size of the uninsured population, illegal immigration strains heath care providers who offer services to the uninsured, making it much more difficult for them to serve those who are insured and covered by heath care. When this is the case, it is the taxpayers and law-abiding citizens that end up paying the bill. That is unacceptable. We have instituted laws and regulations to control the immigration process in order to prevent outbreaks of contagious disease, to keep our standards high, and protect our premier health care system. But what is the use of these laws if they are not obeyed or enforced?
America’s public schools are currently under catastrophic budget constraints. Although it is impossible to attribute this problem to a single cause, the enormous impact of record illegal immigration cannot be ignored. Current United States law requires that all illegal immigrants have access to a free K-12 grade public education and citizens and lawful students pay the price. With 1.5 million school-aged illegal immigrants residing in the United States in addition to their 2 million U.S.-born siblings, the effects of illegal immigration on education are enormous (Martin, Jack). Class sizes in schoolrooms across America are growing every month because illegal immigrants continue to flood the school system. It is impossible to predict the exact number of students a school will need to accommodate each year since there is no way to foresee the number of students who will travel illegally across the border. This causes major resource problems especially in areas of high concentration – problems which must be solved for the sake of quality education.
The fiscal cost of educating illegal immigrants is also mind-blowing. “The total K-12 school expenditure for illegal immigrants costs the states nearly $12 billion annually, and when the children born here to illegal aliens are added, the costs more than double to $28.6 billion… In North Carolina five percent of students are children of illegal aliens and $771 million is spent annually for their education” (Martin, Jack). If the federal government does not take control of the illegal immigration they will be forced to spend millions of dollars to help the states keep their schools open. These statistics alone should provide enough impetus for legislators and concerned citizens to do something about the uncontrollable spending currently occurring.
Illegal immigration is not only severely driving up the price of education. It is also significantly reducing the quality of education students receive. All children – native-born and immigrants alike – are receiving a considerably poorer education as a result of uncontrollable illegal immigration (Interview). The American education system should not be forced to sacrifice the quality of education because of the sheer quantity of illegal aliens. Classrooms around the nation are facing some of the harshest budget decreases in history, causing teacher lay-offs, larger class sizes, fewer textbooks, and the elimination of sports, language programs, and after-school activities. Some action must be taken, before the quality of education is taken from us.
Although immigration is vital to our nation’s success, illegal immigration has many negative effects on society. Today, millions of illegal aliens reap the benefits of being a United States citizen but choose to circumvent the necessary steps to attain legal citizenship. Needed changes must be made concerning United States immigration policy and enforcement procedures so that we decrease the adverse effects illegal immigrants pose to society.
Camarota, Steven. “Wrestling Health Care.” Center for Immigration Studies. 22 August 2000. 1 November2005.
“Illegal Immigration and Public Health.” Federation for American Immigration Reform Immigration Issues Center. 2005. 26 October 2005.
“Illegal Immigration” Center for Immigration Studies. October 2005. 4 November 2005.
Martin, Jack. “Breaking the Piggy Bank: How Illegal Immigration is Sending Schools Into the Red.” Federation for American Immigration Reform Immigration Issues Center. June 2005. November 9 2005.
Martin, Jack. Personal Interview. 9 November 2005.
Nemko, Marty. “Why America is Dying...and What to Do.” Marty Nemko’s Website. 2005. November 9 2005.
“What's Wrong With Illegal Immigration?” Federation for American Immigration Reform Immigration Issues Center. March 2005. 4 November 2005.