Biased think tanks can't change facts
Re: your Feb. 28 article, "Defusing inflammatory issues': Neither legal nor illegal immigrants are stealing jobs from native workers, says a study analyzing 44 years of data":
If there ever was a doubt that the Public Policy Institute of California is a liberal think tank that skews the facts to bolster its preconceived notions, its "research" on immigrants and wages released last week should shatter those doubts.
It should come as no surprise. A quick look at some of the PPIC board of directors tells the story.
Director Linda Griego is a former President Clinton appointee. Director Edward K. Hamilton was deputy mayor to New York City Mayor John Lindsey. PPIC President and CEO David W. Lyon has argued to give taxpayer benefits to illegal immigrants, including a college educationbenefits that serve as magnets to encourage more people to break the law and sneak into the United States.
To Ventura and Santa Barbara County residents, perhaps the most familiar liberal on the board is former California state Sen. Gary K. Hart.
There is nothing wrong with having a point of view. Just don't market yourself and your "research" as unbiased and nonpartisan when it's not.
The PPIC seeks to obscure the problems of illegal immigration by lumping legal and illegal immigration together. That does a great disservice to those who have paid their dues, negotiated the bureaucratic maze and met all the legal, economic and health requirements to come here legally.
We are a nation of immigrants. Legal immigrants contribute greatly to our society, which is why the United States allows more people to move here than any other country in the world.
Illegal immigration, on the other hand, is, by its very nature, injurious to the United States. The first act undertaken by illegal immigrants is to break our immigration laws. That lack of respect for the rule of law is reflected in our prisons. While illegal immigrants make up about 7 percent of the U.S. population, they comprise nearly 30 percent of the inmates in federal prisons.
It costs an estimated $1.4 billion a year to incarcerate criminal illegal immigrants in California jails and prisons, not counting court expenses and the financial, human and emotional impact of their crimes on the innocent.
Criminal gangs also are greatly populated by illegal immigrants. In fact, a California Department of Justice report estimated that 60 percent of Los Angeles' 18th Street Gang members are illegal immigrants.
While most illegal immigrants come here for work, the above numbers and their impact on our society can't be ignored. Nor can we ignore the substantial negative impacts of work-seeking illegal immigrants.
After factoring in the limited benefits of illegal immigration, it costs California taxpayers an estimated $10.5 billion a year to host illegal immigrants. That includes more than $1 billion a year just in Medi-Cal costs. Hospitals have closed up and down the state in large part because illegal immigrants use high-cost emergency rooms for primary care.
And, contrary to the PPIC's skewed numbers, there is a very real and negative impact on jobs and wages from illegal immigration. Even Cesar Chavez opposed illegal immigration because he recognized how it pulls down wages for those legally in the United States.
A recent graphic example of how illegal immigration hurts those who can least afford it occurred in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. The union rate for laborers working to remove post-Katrina debris was around $20 an hour. But then an influx of illegal immigrants flooded the area, willing to work for $9 or $10 an hour. Illegal immigrants undercut New Orleans residents who had lost their homes. American citizens were pushed further into the abyss when their ability to earn a decent wage to rebuild and put food on their tables was taken away by illegal immigrants.
Illegal immigration is illegal. It is injurious to the U.S. economy and U.S. taxpayers. It drives down wages and takes jobs away from those with a legal right to live and work here. A biased think tank can try to obscure those facts, but it can't change them.
Elton Gallegly, of Simi Valley, is a senior member of the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee and chairman of the 1995 Congressional Task Force on Immigration Reform. He has introduced 11 bills this year targeting illegal immigration.