Common Sense Immigration Reform is crucial for Economic Recovery
ATLANTA (July 15, 2010) – The 2010 Legislative Session will be remembered as one of the worst budget years in Georgia’s history. We did our best to minimize the impact on citizens, yet some cuts were unavoidable. Amid the worst recession since the 1930’s, it’s expected that states would feel a budget crunch. Taxpayers have less money to spend, and state revenues plummet as a result. Filling a $2 billion budget hole may seem impossible. However, newly released numbers reveal that the amount of money Georgians spend in illegal immigration costs is enough to plug that $2 billion dollar budget deficit.
According to a report released this month by the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), Georgians spend $2.4 billion a year on illegal immigration costs. That’s enough to fix our budget gap over the next two years with no federal funds or tax increases. Just imagine, if Georgia taxpayers weren’t spending billions of dollars covering the cost of illegal immigration, we’d be able to save teachers’ jobs and crucial state services. FAIR’s estimate is based on state and local government outlays for education, medical care, administration of justice and welfare, among other expenses. Nationwide, U.S. taxpayers spend $113 billion a year providing these services to illegal immigrants.
While U.S. taxpayers are being besieged by illegal immigration costs, its effect on the labor market is also overwhelming. The Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) notes that in 2009, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the U.S. civilian labor force totaled 153 million workers. A CIS memo in April notes that it’s the “40 million low-skilled adult workers of the nation’s labor force who are legally eligible to work who bear the burden of accommodating the influx of the 8.3 million illegal immigrant workers who are not.” The influx of undocumented workers has also taken a toll on Americans’ wages, most notably among those with lower education levels. In 2003, Harvard economist George Borjas estimated that immigration reduced the wages for natives who had not graduated from high school by 7.4 percent.
The American labor force and economy can no longer absorb the cost of illegal immigration. In addition to enforcing our existing laws, we need a common sense solution that reduces wasteful spending and gets legal residents and Georgians back to work. A simple, step-by-step process could easily be put in place, beginning with the federal government establishing a date by which all illegal immigrants must register as being in the U.S. If an illegal immigrant is employed and has obtained a letter from their employer wishing to retain them, they will be eligible for a two-year temporary work visa. However, they must first return to their country of origin to get on a return list and have no outstanding warrants in the U.S. or their home country. If they have not registered by the registration date and found in the U.S., they will be deported with no opportunity to return.
I have described this logical, common sense process in columns over the past few years, calling it the “Common Sense Immigration Reform Act.” The Act should only take a few weeks to implement, particularly if organized and operated by the private sector and/or the military since the federal government has proven to be incapable of handing something this simple and practical. In order for the U.S. to fully recover from this recession, solving the country’s illegal immigration problem must be at the forefront of our agenda. If we put common sense ideas into practice, we can take back our jobs, earn better wages, provide better education and services to legal residents, and become financially stable. The solutions are feasible and effective, and the rewards are even greater.
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Sen. Chip Pearson serves as chairman of the Economic Development Committee. He represents the 51st Senate District which includes Dawson, Fannin, Gilmer, Lumpkin, Pickens, and Union counties and portions of Forsyth and White counties. He may be reached at 404.656.9221 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.