About 30 percent of all immigrants in the U.S. work force in 2005 lacked a high school education, which is four times the rate for native-born Americans. Among the largest group of working-age immigrants, the Mexicans, 62 percent have less than a high-school education, which means they work low-wage jobs. Nearly half of immigrant households, 45 percent, are in or near poverty compared with 29 percent of native-headed households. Among Mexicans living in the United States, nearly two-thirds live in or near the government's definition of poverty.
Costly social benefits provided to the working poor include Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (now called TANF, formerly AFDC), food stamps, school lunches, Medicaid, WIC (nutrition for Women, Infants and Children), public housing and Supplemental Security Income.
The Earned Income Tax Credit is one of the most expensive parts of income redistribution. Twice as many immigrant households (30 percent) qualify for this cash handout as native-headed households (15 percent).
Health care is another huge cost. Nearly half of immigrants are either uninsured or on Medicaid, which is nearly double the rate for native-born families. Federal law requires hospitals to treat all comers to emergency rooms, even if uninsured and unable to pay.
Hospitals try to shift the costs onto their paying patients, and when the hospitals exhaust their ability to do this, they close their doors. In Los Angeles, 60 hospitals have closed their emergency rooms over the past decade, which imposes another kind of cost.
Immigration accounts for nearly all the growth in elementary and secondary school enrollment over the past generation. The children of immigrants now comprise 19 percent of the school-age population and 21 percent of the preschool population.
The Heritage Foundation estimated that in order to reduce government payments to the average low-skill household to a level equal to the taxes it pays, "it would be necessary to eliminate Social Security and Medicare, all means-tested welfare, and to cut expenditures on public education roughly in half." Obviously, that is not going to happen.
Attempts to limit welfare eligibility for illegal aliens by provisions added to the 1996 welfare reform law, SSI, food stamps, Medicaid and TANF all failed. Krikorian concludes that "Walling immigrants off from government benefits once we've let them in is a fantasy."
As Americans are pinched between falling real estate values and the inflation of necessities such as gasoline, they are entitled to know how their tax dollars are being spent. The big bite that social benefits to immigrants (one-third of whom are illegal) takes out of taxpayers' paychecks should be factored into any debate about immigration or amnesty policy.
Phyllis Schlafly is a national leader of the pro-family movement, a nationally syndicated columnist and author of Feminist Fantasies.
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