Welfare State Immigrants

By Bethell, Tom | The American Spectator, February 2005 | Go to article overview

Welfare State Immigrants


Bethell, Tom, The American Spectator


IMMIGRATION BENEFITS AMERICA-as an immigrant I am the first to agree. I would go so far as to say that immigrants are often more pro-American than the native born. Because they (we) grew up somewhere else, we have a basis of comparison. When things are better here, as they often are, we can see it right away. Such comparisons are difficult for the home-grown, who are inclined to take their surroundings for granted. To do otherwise would be difficult for anyone.

Grumpy old New Englanders who have come down in the world illustrate the point. They see the U.S. less as a great country than as one in which their own ancestors were more important and often more prosperous than they are. Disgruntled, they vote for the most left-wing candidates on offer and dream up insane environmental schemes to bring economic activity to a halt wherever possible. They would like to reduce us to an arts-and-crafts economy in which they could flourish anew. Immigrants are not so crazy.

I hope that immunizes me against the charge of nativism, for my thesis is that all is not well in the field of immigration.

In the 1890s, U.S. immigration was essentially unrestricted, and I would be in favor of that today were it not for two things: the welfare state, and the campaign against the melting pot, waged over the past generation with some success. In 1890, when immigrants were 14.8 percent of the U.S. population, the welfare state did not exist. Today immigrants are 11.9 percent.

U.S. law has decreed that two major components of the welfare state cannot be denied even to those who came here illegally: education and "emergency" medical care. Since hospital emergency rooms are now frequented by ordinary (if unscrupulous) Americans for the treatment of almost any condition, including cold symptoms, illegals can in effect claim the right to treatment for almost any medical condition without fear of refusal.

When a country has reached the point where it cannot deny tax-funded benefits to those (or their offspring) who arrived illegally, then the rule of law has broken down. It's hard to predict the long-term consequences-immigration policy is fraught with unintended consequences-but here is one that is likely: Political support for immigration will be undermined. This has already happened in England, where refugees threaten "the apparatus of the welfare state and National Health Service," as the Spectator in the UK noted recently. "The ordinary taxpayer is ready to cough up for a system that ensures that Doris down the road can have her hip operation, but does not want to pay for the central African AIDS crisis."

There are said to be ten million illegal aliens in the United States. A new study claims they cost the California taxpayers alone about $10 billion a year for medical care, education, and incarceration. Their children constitute 15 percent of the state's K-12 student body. Nationwide, 31 percent of all immigrants now come from Mexico-up from 16 percent in 1980.

Increased border surveillance in California and Texas has funneled more and more Mexicans through Arizona. Over 400,000 a year are arrested trying to enter the state, and the flood of illegals has forced some hospitals in Arizona into bankruptcy. In response, Proposition 200 was put on the Arizona ballot in November. Undocumented applicants would be ineligible for state benefits, including the privilege of voting.

According to a left-wing activist working to defeat the measure, Prop. 200 was opposed by the entire political class: "the Chamber of Commerce, the entire Congressional delegation, the Libertarian Party, the Green Party, civil rights groups, church groups, human rights groups, trade unions," and more. Still, it passed with 56 percent of the vote.

Those campaigning for progressive causes in the Southwest have focused on one thing: registering Hispanics to vote. Here is a condensed news story from the Los Angeles Times last September. …

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