Let's take the economic problem first. According to the most recent Pew study, 94 percent of male illegal immigrants are employed, as well as 54 percent of female illegal immigrants (female illegal immigrants are less likely to be employed because they generally are married and have young children). Illegal immigrants now compose 24 percent of those working in farming, 17 percent of those working in cleaning, 14 percent of those working in construction, 12 percent of those working in food preparation and 9 percent of those working in production. They are working at wages below the legal minimum. Were illegal immigrants to disappear tomorrow, prices in all of the above industries would rise, some businesses would shut down and other businesses would move abroad.
On the other hand, the Center for Immigration Studies has shown that illegal immigrant households create a federal net fiscal deficit of $2,700 per household, since they generate little tax revenue but take advantage of basic government services. Granting amnesty would hike that deficit to $7,700 per household. The question for Americans is whether they are willing to pay more at the supermarket or see their favorite restaurant shut down in order to prevent illegal immigration.
Then there's the more difficult social problem. America cannot survive as an agglomeration of different ethnic groups who refuse to engage in common American culture. Thankfully, many illegal immigrants share basic American values already: They are family oriented and religious. They do not, however, speak English. More importantly, their children do not speak English -- one University of Southern California study showed that 94 percent of LAUSD students learned English as a second language. It is no wonder that California perennially ranks among the worst states in terms of educational achievement. Speaking the vernacular is a vital element in identification with America. It is no wonder that American flags were burned as protestors chanted in Spanish during the recent Los Angeles rallies.
After decades of political platitudes about illegal immigration, the current bill before Congress gives Americans a choice. Enforcing our borders will entail costs to all Americans. Are those costs worth bearing? One thing is certain: The costs of inaction are far greater.