Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security, and Claims
Oversight hearing on
How Illegal Immigration Impacts Constituencies: Perspectives from Members of Congress (Part III)
November 17, 2005
Testimony of Congressman John R. Carter (TX-31)
Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman and subcommittee members. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to testify before this committee. Illegal immigration is undoubtedly the most important issue Texas currently faces. As millions of illegal aliens stream across the Rio Grande into Texas and the United States, our criminal justice, healthcare, welfare, and education systems (to name a few) are negatively impacted. The American taxpayer is picking up the bill for unauthorized immigrants visiting emergency rooms, schooling their children, and being incarcerated.
It is estimated that in 2000, there were more than one million illegal immigrants living in Texas. That was about five percent of the state population. Texans spend more than $4 billion annually on education for illegal immigrant children and their U.S.-born siblings. About 12 percent of Texas school children in K-12 are children of illegal aliens. Texas' healthcare expenditures for illegal aliens are more than $520 million per year. And the uncompensated cost of incarcerating illegal aliens is more than $150 million each year. These costs relate to about $725 per legal household.
Other costs to Texas and American taxpayers are those associated with English proficiency programs, damages and injuries caused during border crossings, low-income housing subsidies, and unpaid taxes. Many legal workers are displaced by unauthorized immigrants willing to work for lower wages. The United State's education system is regularly criticized for being inferior to those of other nations. Just think what we could do with the billions of dollars we are spending on illegal immigrants and their children - raise teachers salaries, more education-related programs, more school vouchers, to name a few.
All this does not even begin to discuss the intangible costs associated with drug running, arms smuggling, and violence spilling over from Mexico border towns. The Border Patrol reports that Texas has the highest seizure rate of cocaine and heroine of any other state. Now I know our Texas law enforcement officers are the best and that is one reason we have the highest seizure rate, but the other reason is that we have more drugs flowing into this country through the Texas border than anywhere else. The drug business is flourishing in Mexico because of the illegal trade with America. The Mexican side of the border is fast becoming a lawless war zone where cartels and gangs rule with martial law. This tragic development is too close to innocent American citizens and the violence is beginning to spread across the border.
I applaud the efforts of Congress to reform our immigration laws. I hope to see many strict policies included in this process, including tougher enforcement of our laws, stronger penalties to act as deterrents, and a comprehensive plan to plug the leak in our borders, including some sort of wall or fence.
It is conservatively projected that ICE needs a total of 40,000 beds to handle the mandatory detention needs. Typically the agency has an inventory 18-20,000 beds including its own facilities and those obtained through contracting with the private sector or state/local facilities. The severe shortage of detention capacity has resulted in a "catch and release" situation whereby 120,000 non-Mexican illegals apprehended by the Border Patrol were released into the general population last year alone. I am aware of detention capacity that exists in my district and around the country and as Congress moves forward with reform legislation, we should ensure that ICE has the funding necessary to utilize existing capacity and to obtain additional capacity as needed to meet the detention needs.
I am probably not telling this subcommittee anything it does not already know, so please let me elaborate with some specific stories from my district in central Texas