The immigration questions asked during the MSNBC/Politico and CNN/Tea Party Republican presidential debates approached immigration from an ethnic perspective. The media missed the chance to press the eight candidates on the larger impacts of immigration policy. Census data analyzed by the Center for Immigration Studies shows that the U.S. will add 30 million new residents every decade for generations to come unless the federal government cuts immigration back to traditional levels. Neither the media nor the candidates have questioned whether the current immigration policy is desirable or sustainable.
The debates follow a troubling pattern where the media and politicians fail to recognize immigration's interconnectedness with other issues. This is the third of four blogs concerning immigration-sustainability questions policy makers should address.
Part Three: "Are current immigration numbers sustainable for American taxpayers?" According to the Heritage Foundation, low-skilled immigration costs American taxpayers $89.1 billion every year. Health care programs make up nearly one-quarter of the federal budget, and 85 percent of the growth in uninsured since 1999 has been a result of immigration policies, according to Dr. Steven Camarota of the Center for Immigration Studies. Imagine how different the health care debate would have been had Congress adopted the immigration reductions recommended by the bi-partisan U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform, chaired by the late Rep. Barbara Jordan. The $940 billion dollar price tag on health care reform would be much smaller had Congress cut immigration in half as Jordan's commission proposed back in 1996.
Immigrants (legal and illegal) are more than twice as likely to be uninsured than American-born citizens, largely because they tend to earn less. Although President Obama was adamant that his health care overhaul would not cover illegal aliens, the law does not require the use of the SAVE system, which is essentially E-Verify for benefits. In August, the Department of Health and Human Services (HSS) announced that millions of taxpayer dollars are going to health centers that target seasonal farm and migrant workers, and those centers "do not, as a matter of routine practice, ask about or collect data on citizenship," according to a department spokesperson.
Some Republican candidates infer that illegal aliens are a permanent part of American society and, accordingly, must be afforded an opportunity to earn legal status. The media hasn't asked what a large-scale legalization would cost, but the Center for Immigration Studies estimates that enrolling 3.1 million amnestied aliens into Medicaid alone could cost $48.6 billion for the years between 2014-2019. Candidates who support large-scale legalization for illegal aliens should be asked how they propose that the federal government would pay for the benefits afforded to them.
The media has allowed the president and Republican presidential candidates to treat immigration policy as if it existed in a vacuum and did not have implications for American workers and tax payers. But unless they are asked tough questions, politicians are unlikely to give substantive answers. The media, which under-reports the negative consequences of mass immigration, needs to hear from readers and viewers. Leave comments online, call reporters and editors and spell out the direct relationship between more immigration and higher taxes taxes. Tell us about your efforts in the comments section below.
JEREMY BECK is the Director of the Media Standards Project for NumbersUSA
Updated: Thu, Sep 29th 2011 @ 11:30am EDT