I came across a comment as I was wasting time on social media that got me in the mood to do some research. The comment was something to this effect, “Wouldn’t it be nice if Trump took the money that would be used to build a border wall and invest it in education.” Well, my thought is that a border wall is an investment in education. A border wall is also an investment in healthcare, the United States economy, and reduction of crime and the costs associated.
The issue of illegal immigration is a complex, often emotional debate. We are talking about human beings, which should never be taken lightly. No one wants to see families living in dangerous conditions with violence, drugs, inadequate nutrition and healthcare, lack of good-paying work, and basic squalor. Many of us believe in the directive to love our neighbor and to share our riches so that no one suffers. I believe in those ideals. I also believe that by allowing individuals and families to come to our country without going through proper procedures, we are inviting more suffering and degradation not only to our own country, but to the country from which they come.
The Pew Research Center estimates that there are more than 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States. According to the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), these illegal immigrants cost us more than $134.9 billion annually. This number takes into account the $18.9 billion the government receives in taxes from the illegal immigrants who pay. This is a staggering amount of money that could be used in ways to better our education, healthcare, infrastructure, and more. The Center for Immigration Studies reports that if the border wall stops 9-12 percent of the illegal border crossings, the border wall would pay for itself in 10 years.
In response to the comment on social media about education, this border wall could help decrease classroom sizes and increase resources available to students and teachers, allowing for a better quality of education. In accordance with the Supreme Court decision of 1982, illegal immigrant children cannot be denied education. A Pew Hispanic Study found illegal immigrant children and American-born children of illegal immigrants comprised an estimated 6.8 percent of the enrollment of kindergarten to grade 12 students in public schools in March 2008. These children contributed to the overcrowding of public schools and the decrease in available resources for students. According to an article on AJC.com, “Educating Illegal Immigrants is Costly” by Lance T. Izumi, U.S. schools spend approximately $12,000 per student, multiply that number by the 3.7 million students with illegal immigrant parents, and the total funding cost is more than $44 billion. Add to that the cost of building more and larger schools to accommodate the increase in students.
Illegal immigration impacts more than education. Healthcare for a large population that does not have insurance or who use government-paid assistance such as Medicaid, costs the country more than $17 billion each year, according to FAIR. When I worked for a hospital marketing department, we regularly received calls from the media asking what we did for illegal immigrants who could not afford to pay their hospital bill. The same process applied to anyone who couldn’t pay, but the numbers were greater for illegal immigrants, we wrote the bill off as charity care, meaning we reported the cost of care to the government and were reimbursed. This is tax-payer money that could be used to better our healthcare system and for technology and research.
The prison system is another area greatly affected by illegal immigration. Information from the Government Accountability Office shows that 16.4 percent of the inmates in state and local prisons are illegal aliens. We are seeing increasing reports of illegal immigrants committing crimes after several deportations, as they keep returning to the United States. In addition we have a surge of dangerous gang members made up solely of illegal immigrants committing violent crimes. According to FAIR, illegal immigrants cost U.S. taxpayers $13.14 billion, again, money that could be spent elsewhere.
Illegal immigration affects education, healthcare, the economy and so much more. No one thinks that every person who comes here illegally is doing so with negative intentions. With all of these facts and figures, it is easy to forget the human side of this issue. Most illegal immigrants are good people. They are fleeing a life of violence and oppression. They want a better life for their family. However, there are other ways to achieve this than by illegally entering the U.S.
Many immigrants work hard and contribute to the economy by using their income to pay for food, clothing, etc. They also send a portion of their money home to their relatives still living in the country from where they came. An article on NPR’s website from February 2017, “Mexicans in the U.S. Are Sending Home More Money Than Ever,” talks not only about Mexicans but immigrants from countries in South America, who collectively sent home $69 billion in 2016. U.S. money is a major contributor in the economies of these countries, but do we know in what ways? These illegal immigrants who are being so kind to their home country are not contributing an equal amount to the U.S. economy in taxes and actually depleting much more.
What about these countries that are racked with corruption, violence, and crime? Many of their citizens are taking great risks to travel to the United States. So, who is left? The corruptors, the gang members, the criminals, and the few honest, good people who couldn’t, for whatever the reason, leave? So they have left their countries to perish from evil. How is life in these countries ever going to get better if no one stays and fights for change? If immigration reform doesn’t come soon, the United States will be busting at the seams while other countries see tumbleweeds in the wind.
Illegal immigration is an issue that affects everyone, not just in the United States, but in the countries being left behind. Republicans and Democrats can argue heatedly, using little logic and much emotion, but this is an issue that comes down to one fact, illegal immigration must be stopped. Instead of paying for education, healthcare, and government resources for people who came here illegally, we could use a portion of that money and invest in the countries who need help getting rid of corruption, gangs, and crime. Then everyone has a chance at the good life.