Monday, June 15, 2009

Governor Schwarzenegger "Happy" Illegal Aliens Receive Taxpayer-Funded Benefits

Last week, in an interview with the Sacramento Bee, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger rejected the idea that taxpayer funded benefits for illegal aliens played a significant role in the state's budget deficit. (Sacramento Bee Video). The governor claimed that illegal aliens were being used as a "scapegoat" for the state's more fundamental problems and went so far as to praise the benefits that illegal immigrants bring to the state. (San Francisco Chronicle).

Many states around the country are facing tough economic times, but California's budget picture is particularly grim. California is currently facing an estimated $24 billion budget deficit, one of the largest the state has ever seen. (Sacramento Bee, June 12, 2009). As the state government grapples with trying to balance its budget, taxpayers have pointed to reducing services to illegal aliens as a possible subject of reform and source for budget savings.

In a study on the impact of illegal immigration on the state of California done by FAIR in 2004, the estimated population of 2.8 million illegal immigrants then living in California cost the state's taxpayers an estimated $10.54 billion a year, nearly half of the current budget deficit. (FAIR's Cost Study of Illegal Immigration to California, 2004). This amount has only increased as the illegal immigrant population is now estimated to be 3.2 million, a 10% increase above the 2004 estimate. (See FAIR Media Press Release). California taxpayers pay for a variety of services for illegal aliens including social services such as education, medical care, and incarceration of criminal aliens.

During his interview with the Sacramento Bee, Governor Schwarzenegger claimed that taxpayers had to foot the bill of these services due to federal mandates. The governor was, at best, only partially correct in his claim. California has made the decision to provide benefits to illegal aliens above and beyond what is required by federal mandates. These policy choices have contributed greatly to California's widening budget deficit and have also made California an enticing destination for illegal immigrants.

For example, according to the RAND Corporation and the Pew Foundation respectively, somewhere between 59% and 68% of the 3.2 million illegal aliens in California lack health insurance. (Pew, RAND). This has placed a huge strain on the health care system in California. (See "California Health Care Guide"). In addition, according to one analysis, California is spending billions of dollars on health care for illegal aliens including $775 million on Medi-Cal, $536 million for emergency services, and $59 million for prenatal care (not including $108 million for new-born deliveries as the newborns are citizens). (LA Times).

In addition, California taxpayers are also subsidizing the cost of college for illegal aliens who are allowed to pay the in-state tuition at California's public universities, while United States citizens from other states are forced to pay the higher out-of-state tuition rate. This form of discrimination violates federal law and is the subject of a lawsuit brought by the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI). (Martinez vs. Board of Regents). Legislation has been introduced in Congress (the DREAM Act) that would legalize the practice of discriminating against American citizens by giving tuition breaks to illegal aliens that are not also available to all citizens. (FAIR legislative analysis of the Dream Act).

California residents recently defeated a series of measures in a special election that would have increased taxes to balance the budget. Following this defeat, Governor Schwarzenegger declared that the only other option will be to cut funding for certain services. Instead of continuing to underestimate the cost illegal immigration has played in his state's budget crisis, the governor should prioritize the needs of California residents who are citizens by cutting benefits to illegal aliens.


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