Pennsylvania House Of Representatives, Hearing Of The State Government Committee
Statement By John Martin
Special Project Director
Federation For American Immigration Reform (FAIR)
The Fiscal Burden Of Illegal Immigration In Pennsylvania
Good afternoon Chairman Metcalfe and Committee Members,
I am Jack Martin, Special Projects Director at the Federation for American Immigration Reform. FAIR is a national, non-profit, public interest organization with thousands of members in Pennsylvania among more than a quarter million members and activists nationwide. We have been working for more than 30 years to promote policies that will effectively combat illegal immigration, restore moderation to legal immigration, and reform our immigration laws to bring them into accord with the national interest.
The policies we support are aimed at making America safer and for assuring Americans that the foreigners they meet in the United States have been invited into the country, that they are legally present, and that they represent no threat or unfair competition. That obviously is not possible as long as we have millions of illegal aliens living among us and more coming every day.
Our focus on illegal immigration encompasses several concerns. Chief among them are undermining respect for the law, increasing unfair competition for jobs, adding significantly to the fiscal burden on American taxpayers, complicating national security, placing strains on schools and other community institutions, and aggravating an already too high level of population growth. My presentation today is focused on the fiscal impact of illegal immigration.
FAIR estimates the illegal alien population in Pennsylvania to be about 140,000 persons. On the basis of that estimate we calculate that illegal aliens and their U.S.-born children — which we estimate at 27,400 persons — represent a fiscal burden on Pennsylvanians of nearly $1.4 billion per year — excluding the share of federal expenditures on this same population. A small share of that state and local fiscal impact is offset by tax collections from illegal workers with the net fiscal burden still nearly $1.3 billion per year. I have included a detailed breakdown of those estimated costs from our most recent fiscal cost study released in 2010.
With about 5 million households in the state, the annual fiscal burden resulting from illegal aliens on the average Pennsylvania household is about $280. About one-third of that burden results from public K-12 schooling of the children of illegal aliens, and an additional 9 percent results from the cost of supplemental English language expenditure for the same students. Further costs result from the free and reduced price meals programs in public schools.
Other expenditures relate to policing, incarceration and the administration of justice, emergency medical attention for uninsured illegal aliens, e.g., accidents, sickness, and childbirth. Those expenditures are often increased by the cost of interpretation and sometimes by translation services. Welfare and Medicare benefits are received by U.S.-born children of illegal aliens. Further expenditures included in the analysis relate to general government expenses such as governance, safety, transportation, etc. The data used in FAIR’s study come from various data collected by the federal government from the states. The study used the most recent data available, most often from either 2008 or 2009.
While the federal government has the primary responsibility for regulating immigration, states and local jurisdictions have certain inherent law enforcement powers as well as delegated powers that enable them to share responsibility with the federal government in programs designed to discourage the illegal arrival of foreigners, and to identify such persons for removal from the country by federal authorities. This is an especially important responsibility for state lawmakers at a time when the federal government has made it clear implicitly and explicitly that it will not fully enforce the nation’s immigration laws.
With about 494,000 unemployed Pennsylvanians and additional hundreds of thousands of citizens who work either part time because they can’t find full-time jobs, or who have temporarily given up searching for a job, it is unconscionable that policymakers would not do all that they can do to free up jobs now held by illegal workers. Research has shown that the citizens who are most affected by job competition with illegal aliens are the most economically vulnerable, including teenagers and young adults who now are having the most difficulty in finding entry level jobs. The preponderance of evidence also shows that there are no “jobs that Americans won’t do,” although there are jobs, such as those in sweatshops, that no one should be doing in today’s society.
Across the country constituents are encouraging their state legislators to adopt measures that discourage illegal immigration. At the same time, many employers and ethnic advocacy groups support policies that encourage illegal immigration by licensing illegal alien drivers, recognizing foreign identity documents, and authorizing in-state tuition benefits that are unavailable to other foreign or U.S. students. Public opinion polls show a large majority of Americans oppose these policies. That is no less true among Pennsylvanians. A Rasmussen poll taken in July 2010 that asked about Arizona’s adoption of strict measures aimed at deterring illegal immigration (SB 1070) found that among likely Pennsylvania voters 57% of respondents favored adoption of a similar law. Those opposed were outnumbered by more than 2-to-1.
That is a public sentiment that calls for action.
Combating illegal immigration is a long-term challenge that involves responsibilities for both national and local lawmakers. The focus of that effort must center on discouraging new illegal alien settlement and the gradual reduction of the illegal alien population by removing the welcome mat extended by unwitting and exploitive employers. Doing so will achieve progress towards what should be a priority of all us — fostering a climate in which Pennsylvanians can welcome foreigners with open arms in the knowledge that they have been invited into the United States and should be treated as respected guests and potential future fellow citizens.