Immigration and Illegal Aliens are More a Burden than a Blessing

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ACT OF 1995 (H.R. 2202), MARCH 21, 1996

Mr. Chairman, the problem of illegal immigration has reached historic proportions. Past attempts by Congress to reform immigration laws have provided nothing more than greater incentives and promised benefits for illegal aliens. The result is the present system which actually encourages immigrants to come to America illegally.

Today, I am proud to support an historic change in our Nation's immigration policy. Today, we are going to pass a reform bill with real teeth in it. A bill that cracks down on illegal immigrants already here, and one that secures our borders against future immigrants who would seek to enter illegally. Past legislation this House has considered, which I strongly opposed, did nothing to alleviate the problems of illegal immigration. At long last, I look forward to supporting a bill which acknowledges these problems and takes action to address them.

While past legislation sent the message you could come to the U.S. illegally and expect to receive welfare benefits, food stamps and free health care, this legislation finally puts an end to this outrage. As a Member from the State of Florida, I have seen first-hand the financial burden these ill-gotten attempts at reform have placed on States forced to bear the brunt of this failed immigration policy. Past Congresses refused to stop the excessive flow of illegal immigrants and to eliminate the enormous costs associated with this broken system. Today, we ownup to our responsibilities with a hard-nosed approach that substantially increases border control, provides the Immigration and Naturalization Service with the tools necessary to find and deport illegal aliens, and pays for the Federal Government's financial obligations to the States.

Mr. Chairman, my State of Florida has long been overburdened by the flood of illegal immigration. Since the Mariel boatlift in 1980, we have been the destination of a disproportionate number of immigrants, making us the third-largest recipient of immigrants among our fifty States. Although immigration policy is the sole jurisdiction of the United States Government, history has proven that states like Florida are typically left with the cost and responsibility of providing expensive social services to illegal aliens.

With the enactment of H.R. 2202, we have an opportunity to minimize the enormous expenses that we force upon our States by denying most public benefits to illegal aliens, removing public charges, and holding sponsors personally responsible for the financial well-being of an immigrant they bring into our country. Most importantly, this bill requires the Federal Government to reimburse States and localities for any expenses incurred from providing federally mandated services to illegal immigrants. Based upon various formulas, it is estimated that the State of Florida has spent an average of $651 million per year from 1989–1993, or a total of $3.25 billion for services provided to illegal immigrants. If the costs to local governments are included, the total burden rises to $15 billion for that same five-year period.

Unlike past immigration reform bills, H.R. 2202 will actually discourage the illegal entry of immigrants by increasing our border control agents by 5,000 personnel, improving physical barriers along our borders, including a triple-layer fence, authorizing advanced border equipment to be used by the Immigration and Naturalization Service, and instituting an effective removal process to discharge illegal immigrants with no documentation. This bill provides the Department of Justice with twenty-five new U.S. Attorneys General and authorizes 350 new INS inspectors to investigate and prosecute aliens and alien smugglers.

This bill also strongly supports the American worker by cracking down on the use of fraudulent documents that illegal immigrants use to get American jobs and by enforcing strict penalties for employers who knowingly violate these laws. The Department of Labor has authorized 150 new investigators to enforce the bill's labor provisions barring the employment of illegal aliens.

Mr. Chairman, the American people demand that Congress take action to secure our borders against illegal immigrants. With the explosion in the amount of drugs and criminals coming across our borders, and with the flood of illegal immigrants, many of whom settle in Florida, it is eminently important that we do all we can to protect our national borders.

While past Congresses refused to address this national crisis, today we deliver, with a much needed and long overdue first step in this renewed effort. Today we will approve legislation with unprecedented prevention and enforcement mechanisms. The message to illegal aliens is no longer one of indifference. The new message is simple—try to enter the United States illegally and we will stop you, should you get in, we will find and deport you, and should you remain in hiding, don't expect much in the way of support.


… How often do we hear that some businesses refuse to hire young black or Hispanic men for entry-level jobs, but then clamor to hire those from other countries? How often do we hear comments about the growing gap between the well-to-do and the working poor that don't mention that almost half of the relative decline in wages of high school dropouts is caused by immigration?

Think of a single mother barely surviving in a minimum wage job who sees her annual wages depressed by a thousand dollars because she must compete with more and more unskilled immigrants. She very well might be a recent immigrant seeking a better life for herself and her children. Or she might be able to trace her roots in this country back generations and is simply seeking the American Dream denied her ancestors.

Think what she could do for herself and her children with that lost money—buy a used car so she doesn't have to take a bus to work, put a down payment on a modest home, fix the furnace before winter comes. Worse, think what will happen if she actually loses her job because of the never-ending competition from new arrivals. It is certainly not the immigrants themselves who are to blame and who understandably want to come to America, it is our immigration policy. But who knows how many people have been hurt by the unintended consequences of our outdated immigration policy?

A series of recent studies have all documented the effects of immigration policy on low-skilled American workers and recent immigrants:

The National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences concludes that immigration was responsible for "about 44% of the total decline in relative wage[s] of high school dropouts…between 1980 and 1994."

The RAND Corporation reports that, in California, "the widening gap between the number of jobs available for non-college-educated workers and the increasing number of new non-college-educated immigrants signals growing competition for jobs and, hence, a further decline in relative earnings at the low end of the labor market."

The U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform, chaired by Barbara Jordan, a predecessor of the ranking member, finds that "immigration of unskilled immigrants comes at a cost to unskilled U.S. workers.…"

The Hudson Institute states that "U.S. immigration policy serves primarily to increase the number of U.S. residents who lack even a high-school degree. America must stop recruiting workers for jobs that do not exist or exist only at the lowest wages."

The Brookings Institution publishes a paper concluding that "immigration has had a marked adverse impact on the economic status of the least skilled U.S. workers.…"

The Center for Immigration Studies calculates that "immigration may reduce the wages of the average native in a low-skilled occupation by…$1,915 a year."

These studies just reinforce what common sense tells us. Add three facts together:

First: Immigrants will account for half of the increase in the workforce in the 1990s.

Second: The skill level of immigrants relative to Americans has been declining for years—35% of immigrant workers who have arrived since 1990 do not have a high school education, compared to 9% of native-born workers. Some 300,000 legal immigrants without high school educations arrive each year—and will total three million this decade.

Third: Close to 90% of all future jobs will require post-high school education.

Our policy must create opportunity for all. Current immigration policy would have many Americans and recent immigrants competing with hundreds of thousands of newcomers without high school degrees for a fixed number of low-skilled jobs. This is a recipe for disaster for millions of blue-collar workers and their families.

No one should complain about the plight of the working poor or the persistence of minority unemployment or the levels of income inequality without acknowledging the unintended consequences of our present immigration policy.

Of course, immigration is neither all good nor all bad. Immigrants benefit America in many ways. But we should design our immigration policy so that it enhances rather than diminishes opportunities for American workers. We should protect the jobs of the working poor. We can make a better life for all Americans, wherever they were born.

The destruction of the jobs and wages of blue-collar workers cries out for a bipartisan solution. The people's representatives should look out for the people.

MARCH 11, 1999

… Immigration policy has been captured by special interests who peddle the notion that immigration is an unmitigated benefit to the nation and that it is costless. Nothing could be further from the truth. The immigration myth is based on the premise that attention need only be paid to the benefits while the costs can be totally ignored. Only with respect to the formulation of immigration policy is such nonsense tolerated as conventional wisdom.

If the scale of immigration was small—as it was from the 1930s through to the mid-1960s—the nation could live with the myth that immigration yields only benefits. But it is not. In 1965, the foreign-born accounted for only 4.4% of the population—the lowest percentage since such data started being collected prior to the Civil War. The percentage had been falling for over fifty years. By 1997, however, the percentage had risen to 9.7% (plus some unknown additional increment of statistical under-count due to the estimated six million illegal immigrants currently in the country). Until there are legislative changes, the percentage will continue to rise. Thus, about one of every ten Americans in 1997 was foreign-born. In absolute terms, the foreign-born population grew from 8.6 million persons in 1965 to 25.8 million persons in 1997. In the process, immigration has again become a key feature of American life. Indeed, the U.S. Bureau of the Census has projected that immigration will be the most important factor influencing the growth of the American population over the next fifty years. Given its momentum, the welfare of the nation can ill-afford to live with the "unrealistic" immigration myth—no matter how "persistent" and "persuasive" are the voices of its proponents.

The Point of Focus —Although the subject of immigration involves multiple considerations, they all have one common juncture point: the labor market. It is a truism that immigrants must work or they must be supported by those who do. So no matter how many other issues are thrown into the immigration caldron, the critical issue is what are the labor market consequences of what immigration policy produces or tolerates. For it must always be remembered that immigration is entirely a discretionary act. The mass immigration that the United States is currently experiencing is entirely a policy-driven phenomenon. No one has a right to immigrate or to seek refuge in the United States—legally or illegally. The "costs" of immigration need to be taken into account as much as do the "benefits" when it comes to designing the appropriate policy. The concerns of the "losers" are as relevant as those of the "winners." Such is especially the case when those most adversely impacted are the least advantaged persons in the population and labor market.

Labor Market Effects —Due to differences in the age and gender distribution of the foreign-born population from the native-born population, immigrants comprise a larger portion of the labor force than they do of the population as a whole. In 1997, foreign-born workers comprised 11.5% of the U.S. labor force (or almost one of every eight U.S. workers). In absolute numbers, 15.5 million workers were foreign-born. These are big numbers and, when concentrated in specific segments of the labor market, they have significant influences.

As in the past, post-1965 mass immigration is geographically concentrated. In 1997, five states (California, New York, Florida, Texas, and Illinois) accounted for 65% of the entire foreign-born population and 66% of the entire foreign-born labor force. The foreign-born are also overwhelmingly concentrated in only a handful of urban areas—especially in their central cities. These particular labor markets, however, are among the nation's largest in size: Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Miami, and Chicago. Collectively, these five cities accounted for 51% of all foreign-born workers. Although somewhat less numerous, immigrants also comprise significant percentages of the labor force of a number of other cities and increasingly in some rural towns.

The most significant labor market characteristic of the foreign-born labor work force, however, is the fact that it is disproportionately characterized by workers with low human capital endowments. The 1990 Census revealed that 25% of foreign-born adults who were twenty-five years and older had less than a ninth-grade education (compared with only 10% of native-born adults). Moreover, 42% of the foreign-born adult population did not have the equivalent of a high school diploma (compared to 23% of the native-born adult population). Thus, it is the low-skilled, low wage sector of the nation's major urban labor markets that are the most impacted by immigrant job-seekers. Not only do low-skilled immigrants compete with each other for whatever opportunities exist at the bottom of the nation's job hierarchy, but they also compete with the low-skilled native-born workers. Indeed, when the National Research Council (NRC) calculated in 1997 that immigration provides a net "benefit" to the U.S. economy of from $1 to $10 billion a year, the "benefit" was based largely on the result of the wage suppression of the wages of low-skilled workers whose wages are lower than they would have otherwise been. This, of course, is only a "benefit" that an economist can appreciate. It is certainly no "benefit" to low-skilled workers who are already at the bottom of the nation's income distribution. It is an artificially imposed hardship imposed by government policy on native-born low-skilled workers. The only actual wage "benefit" in this process is received by the immigrant workers themselves who typically earn considerably more at the bottom of the U.S. wage scale than they would have earned in his/her homeland. Low-skilled native-born workers lose; low-skilled foreign-workers benefit. Whose interests are U.S. policymakers supposed to protect?


I am a black American who has lived on the same street in South Central Los Angeles for forty-five years. When I first moved there it was mostly white. And though there were a few (very few) people who did not like us because of our race we were generally treated with respect and dignity. We went to the same schools as the white kids and no special arrangements were made for us. The white folks would give us jobs and we all spoke the same language. We were all americans. We had a common culture, the American culture. Over the years the community changed gradually from white to black but basically (aside from race) remained the same.

About ten to fifteen years ago things began to change, drastically. We started to see an influx of people from south of the border. Mexico, Central America, South America and others. As these people got here our community began to change, for the worse.

When you here in Washington hear about illegal immigration you will only hear about "the poor immigrant who comes here for a better life" or the poor, poor immigrant child who "must" have an education. You hear about how "hard working" they are and about their great work ethic. You hear the lie about how [they] don't use public services and how they only take the jobs that nobody else wants. You hear from all of the liberal organizations who advocate for the illegal aliens. You also hear from the racist organizations like MALDEF, LULAC, MEChA, and La Raza. They will tell you all the reasons why the illegal alien is good for America.

What [they] don't tell you about is the seventeen-year-old kid on my street that can't get a McDonald's job because he can't speak Spanish. They don't tell you about the eight-year-old boy on my street who like thousands of other black kids is thrown into a bilingual classroom and listens to translations all day long. His six-hour school day is turned into three hours. When his mother asks for an English only classroom she is told "there are none." They won't tell you about the $100,000 house in my neighborhood that sold for $137,000 because the real estate company put five families of "newly arrived Hispanics" who spoke no English on the deed. Now when a black family wants to buy a house, they too have to find four other families to share the ridiculous cost. They won't tell you how skilled black workers in Los Angeles can no longer apply their trade. Body and fender, roofers, framers, drywallers, gardeners, and now even truck drivers. They won't dare tell you about all of the race riots in our schools where the blacks are told to take their black asses back to Africa. Even the news media has refused to tell of this while we know that they are aware of it. There is never a mention of all of the billboards in Spanish and how Chevron is now advertising in Spanish on English language TV.

… We, black Americans are being displaced in Los Angeles. We are being systematically and economically replaced. And the next time somebody tells you that the illegals only take jobs that blacks won't do, just remember that we were doing those jobs before the illegal got here and in places of the country where there is not yet a problem with illegals, you can still get your grass cut, your dinner served, your dishes bussed and your hotel room cleaned. Funny how in those places Americans are doing those jobs. We would still be doing them in Los Angeles if it was not for the fact that the illegal will work for $3.00 an hour. Breaking the law by working for less than minimum wage means nothing to somebody who broke the law to get here. And to those who would ask "How do you know they are illegal" I would say, there is no way that this many people could come here this fast in these vast numbers under our current immigration system.


My name is Tobin Armstrong. My residence is at Armstrong, Texas, in the center of Kenedy County. There are 460 people in Kenedy County—three people per square mile. It is sixty miles north of Mexico on the Gulf of Mexico and has no cultivated land. It is all native pastureland and has a thick cover of thorn trees and live oak trees. I have lived in Kenedy County all my life, have served as a county official since 1948, and am presently County Commissioner for my precinct. I am the managing partner of the Armstrong Ranch, which is a family partnership involving 49,300 acres and 2,500 cattle units.

Since about 1993 my home county has experienced an escalation in traffic of illegal aliens resulting in increasing:

  1. destruction of property
  2. burglary
  3. auto and equipment theft
  4. death by starvation, exposure, disease, auto and train accidents and murder
  5. illegal alien smuggling
  6. narcotics trafficking
  7. forage contamination
  8. massive littering of our pastures
  9. and most distressing of all, the introduction of diseases uncommon in the U.S.

Health authorities say there is no way to prevent illegal immigrants' bringing in these disease[s]. In October 1998 two women, a mother and daughter from El Salvador, were discovered in our pasture by the Border Patrol. Both had malaria and were at death's door. They were treated in the Spohn Memorial Hospital for ten days and released at a cost to the hospital of over $39,000. The mosquito that carries malaria is found as far north as Corpus Christi, Texas, 150 miles north of the Mexican border.

Mary Lee Grant, well regarded reporter for the Corpus Christi Caller-Times, and her co-worker contracted T.B. while doing investigative reporting on the conditions in the colonias in Nueces County. She conservatively estimates that, based on numerous interviews conducted, 70% of the people in the colonias are illegal aliens, which leads us to strongly suspect that the sharp increase in T.B. in South Texas is due to the influx of these illegal transients.

Other diseases being brought into the U.S. by illegal immigrants include encephalitis, cholera, rheumatic fever, salmonella, intestinal parasites, smallpox, measles, HIV and VDs.

The threat of the introduction of foot and mouth and other devastating livestock diseases is staggering. The toll on the illegals themselves is appalling.

We have found five bodies in the county since January 1 and have been averaging twenty per year for the past four or five years. Who knows how many bodies will never be found in these remote pastures?

Last year six illegals were run over and killed while sleeping on the rails adjacent to our pasture.

In March, twelve illegal aliens were severely injured, one of them permanently paralyzed, when the Suburban they were being smuggled in turned over and crashed through our ranch fence. Local hospitals and taxpayers must pay these bills.

In April 1999, 123 illegals were found locked in a semi-trailer truck at the Sarita Immigration Checkpoint six miles north of my home. The driver of the truck was carrying $25,000 in cash.

Thirty illegals were found in a truck the week before. This has become a common occurrence along our frontiers.

About 2,000 illegals per month are apprehended in the Sarita Checkpoint. 1,555,776 were apprehended in the district in fiscal year ending October 31, 1998.

It is common opinion that this is but a fraction of the numbers that are getting through.

Smuggling organizations are increasingly large, well financed and well connected with sharp scouts, decoys, guides and hi-tech communications. Smuggling has become big business.

Some bus drivers are able to pick up illegals, pocket the fares, and issue no tickets.

Make no mistake about it: the word is out that if you can get to the U.S. interior you are home free. That is why illegals will continue to come in increasing numbers. The situation is getting worse, not better. Interdiction hasn't significantly deterred illegal entry—it just redirects it.


While there should be no real debate about the overall impact of immigration on population growth, there is, and should be, a debate over whether this kind of increase in population is desirable for the country. Below I examine some of the consequences that would seem to be unavoidable if the population continues to grow dramatically. There are clearly benefits from population growth; many advocates of high immigration, for example, point to the increase in equity for owners of real estate and greater opportunities and choices it should create for businesses and consumers. Nonetheless, there are clearly real costs as well:

Sprawl and Congestion —If we accept the admittedly low [population] projections discussed above, which indicate immigration will add seventy-six million people to the population over the next fifty years, it means that we will have to build something like thirty million more housing units than would otherwise have been necessary, assuming average household size. This must have some implications for worsening the problems of sprawl, congestion, and loss of open spaces, even if one makes optimistic assumptions about successful urban planning and "smart growth." A nation simply cannot add nearly eighty million people to the population and not have to develop a great deal of undeveloped land.

Can we quantify the role that population growth plays in causing land to become built up, which is a basic definition of sprawl? It turns out that we can. At its simplest level, there are only three possible reasons for an increase in developed land. Either each person is taking up more land, there are more people, or some combination of the two. It's the same with any natural resource. For example, if one wants to know why the United States consumes more oil annually now than it did say twenty years ago, it is either because there are more Americans, or because each of us is using more oil, or some combination of the two. In the case of sprawl, the natural resource being consumed is land.

If one compares the increase in developed land in the nation's 100 largest urbanized areas between 1970 and 1990, it turns out that the causes of sprawl are split right down the middle between population growth and increases in per person land consumption. Of course, this is not true in every city, but overall, population growth contributed to sprawl in equal proportions. While we cannot say with absolute certainty that population growth will continue to cause more and more land to be developed, both past experience and common sense strongly suggest that population growth of this kind has important implications for the preservation of farm land, open space, and the overall quality of life in many areas of the country.

Size of the School-Age Population —In the last few years, a good deal of attention has been focused on the dramatic increases in enrollment experienced by many school districts across the country. The Department of Education recently reported that the number of children in public schools has grown by nearly eight million in the last two decades. All observers agree that this growth has strained the resources of many school districts. Increased funding for education at the state, local, and federal levels has barely been able to keep pace with new construction and prevent class size from growing. While it has been suggested that this increase is the result of the children of baby boomers reaching school age (the so called "baby boom echo"), it is clear from the Current Population Survey that immigration policy explains the growth in the number of children in public schools.

We know that immigration accounts for the dramatic increase in school enrollment because the CPS not only asks all respondents their age and if they are immigrants, it also asks when they came to live in the United States. In addition, the CPS asks all persons if their parents were immigrants. With this data, it is a very simple matter to estimate the impact of recent immigration on public schools. In 2000, there were about eight million school-age children (ages five to seventeen) of immigrants who had arrived since 1970. The children of immigrants account for such a large percentage of the school-age population because a higher proportion of immigrant women are in their childbearing years and because immigrants tend to have more children than natives. Thus immigration accounts for virtually all of the increase in the school-age population in the United States over the last few decades. More importantly, without a change in immigration policy, the number of children in our already overtaxed schools will continue to grow. The absorption capacity of American public education is clearly an important issue that needs to be taken into account when formulating a sensible immigration policy. Failure to consider this capacity may have very real consequences for public education in the United States.


While some economic interests welcome the short-term profits of population booms, we do not. Looking ahead, we see long-term environmental and economic disaster for our country. We've already lost 95% of the old growth forests and 50% of the wetlands of this nation. We have grown well beyond the energy supply within our borders. Water supplies are declining.

Whether the issue is sprawl, endangered species, wetlands, clean air and water, forest or wilderness preservation—the environmental (and quality of life) impact of adding thirty-three million people per decade is extremely harmful. It is the equivalent of shoehorning another state the size of California—including all its homes, office buildings, shopping centers, schools and churches, freeways, power, water and food consumption, and waste products—to an already crowded and stressed U.S. environment. And not just doing it once, but then over and over, decade after decade after decade.

The role of immigration in this population boom is crucial. At least 60% of our population growth in the '90s (twenty million) was from immigration and children born to immigrants. Some put the figure higher, at 70%. With no change in immigration legislation, this growth will continue unabated and constitute the sole cause of population growth in the U.S. as the momentum and "echoes" of the baby boom fades away. The Census Bureau projects that unless current trends are changed, U.S. population will double within the lifetime of today's children.

The American people did their part to solve the environmental problems presented by the baby boom. We voluntarily adopted replacement level reproduction averaging two births per woman (although this is still high compared to 1.4 in other developed nations). We have also made some "gains"—albeit very limited—in reducing consumption per capita in areas such as electric power and use of lower polluting technologies.

But Congress, intentionally or not, has completely undone this sacrifice of the American people and our progress towards a stable and sustainable population by creating an "immigration boom." Immigration that averaged about two million per decade over the history of our nation has been expanded four fold by various acts of Congress beginning in 1965. (Since about two million people now leave the U.S. per decade, immigration of this traditional level would represent replacement level immigration.)

This new population boom must be addressed, not only for the sake of the quality of environment and life we pass to future generations of Americans, but also to be responsible to the citizens of the rest of the world who should not have to bear the burden of ever increasing resource consumption of our country.

We urge Congress to enact a comprehensive population policy for the United States that includes an end to U.S. population growth at the earliest possible time through reduction in natural increase (births minus deaths) and net immigration (immigration minus emigration).

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Immigration and Illegal Aliens are More a Burden than a Blessing

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Immigration and Illegal Aliens are More a Burden than a Blessing