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Eliminate Illegal Immigration to Eliminate State Deficit


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Eliminate illegal immigration to eliminate state deficit

By Elton Gallegly

To hear California's Republican governor and Democratic Legislature tell it, the Golden State's revenues are in such dire straits that the state government must raise taxes to make ends meet.

The facts tell a different story.

Just four years ago, California taxpayers filled the state's coffers with more than $74 billion. In the fiscal year that ended in June, taxpayers sent more than $96 billion to Sacramento—a $22 billion and 23 percent increase in revenues. That's three-and-a-half times the amount of the budget deficit the state is experiencing this year. Clearly, it's not revenues that are lacking. It's spending that is out of whack.

While I fully endorse cutting back on government spending, California does not have to eliminate legitimate spending to balance its budget. It needs to eliminate waste and fraud.

Eliminating waste and fraud was the promise Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger made to voters to get elected to office. But he has ignored the poster child of waste and fraud: illegal immigration. Anyone who comes here illegally to work or take advantage of our social benefits is committing fraud. Any government that allows that to happen is wasteful of its legal residents' money.

Unnecessary deficit

The result is an unnecessary deficit.

In 2004, the Federation for American Immigration Reform published the most recent comprehensive report on how much illegal immigration costs the state of California. That report showed an $8.8 billion net loss to the state, enough to cover this year's deficit and provide the state with a $2.8 billion surplus.

And that was four years ago. The costs—and the savings—would be much greater today.

Another study bears that out. While FAIR's study is the latest to focus exclusively on California, a December nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office report that looked at the entire United States reached a similar conclusion, and estimated the costs to California as even higher.

California, the CBO noted, incurs the highest costs from illegal immigration, ranging in the "tens of billions of dollars." Moreover, the report stated: "The tax revenues that unauthorized immigrants generate for state and local governments do not offset the total cost of services provided to those immigrants."

Illegal immigration impacts pocketbook

California is home to about 25 percent of the nation's illegal population and illegal immigrants comprise about 8 percent of California's population. Clearly, illegal immigration impacts the state's pocketbook.

Illegal immigration is not just California's problem and cracking down on illegal immigration is primarily a federal responsibility. To that end, I have taken the lead in Congress in writing illegal-immigration laws. Those laws include screening arrestees at local jails for immigration status and developing an instantaneous, much simpler and more effective, electronic-based system to check a worker's eligibility to be in the country, now called E-Verify.

No law is effective, however, if it is not enforced. I have persistently and consistently urged presidents and administration officials over four administrations to enforce the laws Congress has passed. Persistence pays off. After Congress made it clear there would be no expanded guest-worker programs until the administrative branch proved it would enforce immigration laws, the administration began to take its duty seriously in the past year.The results have been dramatic. From last August to May of this year, after federal laws began to be enforced, the illegal-immigration population dropped an estimated 11 percent nationwide.

Three concrete efforts

California—home to the largest illegal-immigration population—can take three concrete steps to mirror the federal effort.

1. We know that most illegal immigrants come to the United States to work. California should require every employer in the state, including state agencies and contractors, to use E-Verify to check the immigration status of employees.
2. California should prohibit sanctuary policies and require that all local and state law enforcement agencies cooperate with immigration authorities to remove criminal illegal immigrants, including screening for legal status at local jails.
3. California should end its policy of providing virtually free in-state college tuition for illegal immigrants. This is a matter of fairness as well as fiscal responsibility. Why should U.S. citizens or legal residents who have lived their whole lives in California be penalized for leaving the state for a year, when someone illegally in the country and in the state for a year gets a free ride?

These are simple steps that would have a big impact on California's budget. Rather than raise taxes on law-abiding Californians, Gov. Schwarzenegger and the Legislature should make it untenable for illegal immigrants to drain California's resources.

Unless California wants to attract even more illegal immigrants and waste even more resources by continuing to provide a safe haven in sanctuary cities for them to work and live, it needs to crack down.

— Rep. Elton Gallegly, R-Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, represents the 24th Congressional District.

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