July 12, 2010

Cost of Illegal Immigration to Rhode Islanders

Monique Chartier

My main focus with regard to illegal immigration has been its implications to US sovereignty and, with the recent rise in kidnappings and violence along the border, the personal safety of those who reside there.

It is not unreasonable, however, to also examine the more pragmatic impact that it has on Rhode Island wallets and public budgets. John Loughlin will be appearing on WPRO a little after 3 pm to discuss this with Buddy Cianci, along with Loughlin's recent visit to Arizona and other matters pertaining to Rhode Island and District One.

[Terry Gorman of RIILE kindly provided these figures from the indicated sources.]

Education -- As of 2004, the US Census Bureau estimates there were 8,740 students in RI schools who were illegal aliens or the US born children of illegal aliens. Multiply this by RIDE's figure of $23,000 annually to educate ELL's ( English Language Learners) and get $201,020,000. Now we need to add in the cost to educate the Special Needs students. If we include the additional cost of Special Needs students in this category - using the same percentage as the total student population - 20.1% of 8,740 = 1,756 X $22,000 = $38,600,000.

Total, Education $239,600,000
Incarceration -- As of 2008, there were over 200 inmates at the A.C.I. who were illegal aliens at a cost of $43,000 each annually. (Source: the Director of the A.C.I.) That's at least $8,600,000. Now subtract reimbursement from the federal government of $1,200,000.
Net total, Incarceration: $7,400,000

Medical Services -- In 2005, the Providence Journal estimated that 35% 0f Rite Care recipients were illegal aliens.

Fast forward to 2009 when the Rite Care budget for medical services was $357 million. (This represented an increase of only $1,000,000 over 2005 due to screening changes implemented by the Governor and D.H.S.) Take the ProJo's 35% and multiply it times $357,000,000.

Total, Medical Services: $124,950,000

Uncompensated care (compensation supplied by RI taxpayers) -- In 2008, the state paid a total of $138,000,000 (source: the state's budget) to RI hospitals for uncompensated care. Attempts to quantify how much of this was paid on behalf of illegal aliens (for purportedly emergency services only) is made difficult because, as Terry Gorman observes

RIILE is stymied in this area also by the refusal of the hospitals to divulge the number of U S Citizens and Legal Immigrants receiving this uncompensated care. This would reveal the actual number of Illegal Aliens for whom they are providing services.

So let's use what would seem to be a conservative percentage of one half. (Correction cheerfully made if and when hospitals are willing to release actual numbers.)

Total, Uncompensated CAre: $69,000,000

Jobs Taken -- Apply the estimate by the US Census Bureau and D.H.S. that 59% of illegal aliens in the United States are employed to a more conservative figure of 30,000 illegal aliens residing in Rhode Island.

Total, Jobs Taken: 17,700

Grand total: $440,950,000 annually plus 17,700 jobs

Comments, although monitored, are not necessarily representative of the views Anchor Rising's contributors or approved by them. We reserve the right to delete or modify comments for any reason.


"If all unauthorized immigrants were removed from Rhode Island, the state would lose $698.0 million in economic activity, $310.0 million in gross state product, and approximately 3,780 jobs, even accounting for adequate market adjustment time, according to a report by the Perryman Group."

Posted by: Matt at July 12, 2010 3:24 PM

These folks come here for one reason JOBS. Make it a felony to hire an undocumented worker, with a 10 years prison sentence and a Million dollar fine (per each hire) and the problem will go away on its own.
No need for a billion dollar fence, or thousands of ICE agents. We should change the debate from Illegal workers...TO ILLEGAL EMPLOYERS

Posted by: Sammy at July 12, 2010 3:38 PM

Wouldn't that hurt all of the small businesses in Rhode Island that employ undocumented immigrants by forcing them to pay the add'l taxes that would be required if they employed naturalized citizens? In turn, hurting the overall Rhode Island economy?

Posted by: Matt at July 12, 2010 3:54 PM

Matt, there are benefits to illegal immigration. Cheap labor, more customers, etc. But the costs of providing such expensive government services to them outweigh the benefits many times over, and they are a drag on our economy. If RI wasn't such a welfare magnet there wouldn't be a problem, but then they wouldn't come here in the first place.

Posted by: Dan at July 12, 2010 4:22 PM

Sammy-good point of view,EXCEPT we'd still need thousands of ICE agents to track down and deport criminal aliens,both legal and illegal,as well as those involved in terrorist activity.
I'd say 5 years and a $,5000 fine per alien to mirror the smuggling/harboring statutes.I did this for a living.Trust me.

Posted by: joe bernstein at July 12, 2010 4:40 PM

I can agree that using illegal labor externalizes many costs that society has to pick up.

What I -can't- agree with is lumping 'US born children of illegal aliens' with their parents... Like it or lump it, there's a reason why this rule goes all the way back to the constitution. I don't think the constitution is something you can pick-and-choose from.

Posted by: mangeek at July 12, 2010 4:42 PM

Interesting to see Matt speaking in favor of exploiting illegal immigrants to skirt labor laws. The implications are too numerous to explore, just now.

Posted by: Justin Katz at July 12, 2010 6:36 PM

Mangeek writes:

"What I -can't- agree with is lumping 'US born children of illegal aliens' with their parents... Like it or lump it, there's a reason why this rule goes all the way back to the constitution. I don't think the constitution is something you can pick-and-choose from."

While it is in the Constitution, it does not go "all the way back".

It is one of the "reconstruction era" amendments from about 1867. The "original intent" was to prevent the Southern states from denying citizenship to blacks. A pity they didn't just come out and say that. It was well understood at the time.

The "anchor baby" was never the intent.

Posted by: Warrington Faust at July 12, 2010 7:12 PM

Gee Matt I didn't realize illegal aliens were so GOOD for RI.
Maybe we should just put a 1% sales tax surcharge and pay a recruitment BONUS to anybody from a Third World S***hole who wants to relocate here.
Since illegals are so "great" for our economy, if we can attract enough our employment and state bankruptcy issues will --abracadabra- be solved.
Well, at least KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell will never want for minimum wage non-unionized slaves.
Right Matt???

Posted by: Tommy Cranston at July 12, 2010 7:13 PM

Sorry Matt, but the obvious bias and non-sequitur logic of that site make your source invalid as a contribution to this debate. There are many reasons, including:

1. No breakdown of illegal vs. legal immigrants in the workforce.

2. No support for the claimed purchasing power or contribution to the state's economic activity. Note that to the extent that illegals' purchasing power comes from taxpayer-funded aid, that is not a net gain but only a transfer from one pocket to another.

It would be interesting to know how many recipients of taxpayer-funded aid are illegals and how many of them are actually in the workforce.

It would also be interesting to know how many indigent, young, legal residents would "do the jobs Americans won't do" at economically viable wages if they were not also recipients of taxpayer-funded aid.

There is no legitimate way to rationalize either illegal immigration or taxpayer-funded "services" as proper functions of the state government. Attempts to argue the fine details merely obscure the fundamental, big truth.

Posted by: BobN at July 12, 2010 10:14 PM

Not in favor of skirting labor laws - just trying to stoke some debate.

My real question is: why is the conversation always focused on the enforcement of existing immigration laws, when there is a TREMENDOUS opportunity for economic growth (among other things) in the prospect of comprehensive immigration reform. I mean, when it comes down to it, this country is a superpower, and the greatest country on earth, because it provided opportunities to immigrants. Why would we focus on enforcing laws that stymie that kind of progress (and cost a LOT of money, as you have all pointed out), when we could just reform the laws, create a more open immigration process, and in turn embrace the contributions that the influx of free citizens would make to our society, economically and otherwise.

Posted by: Matt at July 12, 2010 10:32 PM

Because if the Federal Government cannot enforce existing immigration laws, it is not reasonable to expect them to be able to enforce a more "comprehensive" set of immigration laws, meaning that the only part of "comprehensive immigration reform" that will actually be carried out is the mass amnesty.

Posted by: Andrew at July 12, 2010 11:20 PM

Ok - but can we at least agree that conceptually, raising the immigration quota and decreasing the impediments to naturalization would be better for our economy than spending an excessive amount of money on getting people out/keeping people out of our country?

Posted by: Matt at July 12, 2010 11:28 PM

BobN writes:

"It would also be interesting to know how many indigent, young, legal residents would "do the jobs Americans won't do" at economically viable wages if they were not also recipients of taxpayer-funded aid."

I as understand it, in many urban areas, that segment of the population has 90% "unemployment".

I have wondered why we need to import low skill workers.

Posted by: Warrington Faust at July 12, 2010 11:32 PM

Matt, it's because the previous waves of immigrants were (1) legal; (2) here to become Americans, not to establish incursions of their insular, "multicultural" micro-societies with them; (3) eager to learn English and (4) here to work without the temptation of welfare state "benefits", because such benefits didn't exist. They were contributors to, not burdens on, their fellow Americans.

Does it strike you as odd that so many of these immigrants succeeded in their goals without welfare, food stamps, or free housing? I know that the Progressives believe immigrants can't succeed in life without becoming dependent on government programs, but that belief is an insult to the immigrants.

Posted by: BobN at July 13, 2010 6:30 AM

A few points:"Comprehensive immigration is a codeword for amnesty and some weak kneed "employer sanctions"like occured in 1986.That didn't work very well-it will be worse now.
There was no real improvement in interior enforcement then,and won't be now.
Note that Matt entirely skirts the issue of criminal aliens and terrorists-the latter are small in number,but obviously can be large in impact.
The criminal aliens are a serious problem.
The "anchor baby"(bad term)dispute can be addressed as follows;Leave birthright citizenship as is-any attempt to change that will set off a constitutional debate that will take years to resolve.It is much more simple to amend the current law to require that when a native US citizen files a visa petition for parents and other family members it must be proven that when the citizen was born,the parents were lawfully in the US.This won't raise constitutional issues because visa eligibility is not a constitutional matter.Any alien applying for a visa or other benefit must legally bear the burden of proving their qualifications.The citizen can't apply for them until they are 21.
Now,by eliminating the benefit down the road,it will be a deterrent to aliens to come here illegally to have children.
I don't even understand how,with all the daily births in the US,there could be any way to check the status of the parents.We can't turn every medical provider and county/city registrar of births into an immigration officer-it's not practical.
Matt:Illegal aliens vote.You have denied this occurs.I've seen it going back almost 30 years.If I'm addressing the wrong Matt,my apologies.
Comprehensive immigration reform(my way):
(a)establish tight control of the southern border and enhanced control of the northern border
(b)Institute an effective e-verify system for employment with criminal penalties of a substantial nature for employers who evade its use
(c)enforce a no tolerance policy of arrest and swift deportation of criminally involved illegal aliens and resident aliens with applicable convictions
(d)after the above is completed,establish a case by case review system for illegal aliens who've been here a long time and have no criminal history with a view to relief from deportation and the same for illegal aliens brought here as minors,insofar as they didn't commit a willful violation of law.
I can imagine my post here will satisfy very few,but it's as practical an approach as I can think of based on my experiences as an INS agent.

Posted by: joe bernstein at July 13, 2010 7:01 AM

A few points:

BobN: I'm not sure how you can say that my source is an invalid contribution to the debate because of the obvious bias and non-sequitur logic when the original post that started the debate quoted figures provided by the RIILE (obvious bias) and used extremely informal back-of-the-napkin calculations (non-sequitur logic) as supportive evidence.

BobN: I'd also like to run through your comparison of previous immigrants to contemporary immigrants:

1. You claim they arrived legally: of course they did. But that was because there were no immigration quotas until the 1920's. The largest period of immigration in the United States was between 1880 and 1920 - so they didn't have to worry about being legal or not, because there was no real federal legislation to make them illegal. Yet that period of immigration allowed the huge levels of industrialization that led to our status as a world power, and ultimately made us the great country that we are today - why would we want to prevent that again?

2. They were here to become "Americans," not to establish insular multicultural micro-societies: I don't know how any Rhode Islander can say this with any honesty. In the 1920's, Smith Hill, Federal Hill, Silver Lake, Knightsville (the list goes on) were NOTHING SHORT of multicultural micro-socieites. But, as is the case with all immigrant populations, the children that were born of those immigrant groups assimilated perfectly naturally. Ask any child of an immigrant in RI right now: they will tell you that they are proud to be an American (and, probably proud to be of whatever ethnicity that they are - as most 2nd/3rd/4th gen Italian, Irish, Portuguese, etc Rhode Islanders are as well!)

The story of America is the story of immigrants recreating their homes in the United States, and the gradual contribution of those cultures and societies to America's greatness. This is undeniable. So you can't say that they're here to "colonize" the United States, because that's what been happening for decades, and it's a wonderful process for all of us!

3. They were eager to learn English: again, I promise you that contemporary immigrants are EXACTLY as eager to learn English as the immigrants that preceded them. Either way, the fact that they're children will learn English is inevitable - again, this is simply the EXACT same process as what occurred in the urban areas throughout the 20th century.

4. They were here to work without the temptation of welfare state benefits: immigrants that arrived throughout the 20th century were the beneficiaries of countless organizations, including but not limited to: the Catholic Church, dozens of other Christian organizations, large factories that promised welfare programs for incoming workers, and exploitive headhunters that offered similar welfare benefits - so yes, they did in fact have such "temptations" for the immigration - though they were not offered by the state.

Lastly, BobN, I'm not a progressive - I'm just the son of an immigrant who has been fortunate enough to succeed in life because of the opportunities that America provided to my family - and I'm trying to figure out why we wouldn't want this to be the case for all incoming immigrants.

Also, I agree with you COMPLETELY that it is an insult to immigrants to think that they can't succeed without becoming dependent on gov't programs. The larger issue is that the economic distresses we're ALL currently experiencing are making it harder and harder to attain the American dream, forcing immigrants to rely on gov't services to get by.

Joe - I'm not skirting the issue of criminal aliens and terrorists - it's simply not a part of the argument. I agree completely - we need to be vigilant against terrorist and those aliens who are here to commit crimes (be it drugs, int'l gangs, etc) - BUT, the vast majority of incoming immigrants don't fall into this category. Those are the immigrants about whom I'm trying to have a conversation.

As for the "anchor baby" comments - the constitution says what it says.

Also, I suspect I'm not the Matt that you think you're addressing - I'm not really much of a blog commenter.

As far as your vision for immigration reform goes: I actually pretty much agree with it. Though I would also change the quota system and the naturalization process to make it easier for people who really just want to move to America (i.e. non criminal alien) to become citizens.

Posted by: Matt at July 13, 2010 11:39 AM

OK-I kinda thought you might not be Matt Jerzyk.he usually signs his whole name and he's a megablogger.
Anyway making"naturalization" easier takes being a resident alien first.
We can't just have uncontrolled immigration even if those coming are aterling people.Most legal immigrants are decent people.So are many illegal aliens-we just don't have the expanding economy to handle all of them.

Posted by: joe bernstein at July 13, 2010 2:45 PM

Let's be thankful that currently our undocumented come mostly from the familiar cultures of Latin America as opposed to what Europe is going through. Plus, we need a steady influx of immigrants as Americans aren't having enough kids to grow the economy as it has in the past. We need to make the choice between more stable culture with slower growth or rambunctious growth and change. This identity crisis will test our values.

Posted by: Ryan-D-republican at July 13, 2010 11:33 PM

These people are breaking and entering into our country, you know breaking the law. Call it what you want, it's still a crime.

Posted by: Kathy at July 14, 2010 4:28 PM
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