Immigration-Customs enforcement may cool state at Census time
October 22, 2007
There is no hotter political issue than immigration in America today. And it appears that this nation’s top immigration officials now can be added to the old saying that points out the Supreme Court may supposedly be non-political, but the justices certainly read the election returns.
What other explanation could account for the announcement the other day that the government’s chief immigration enforcement agency, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, “won’t entertain any request to scale back our efforts” during the Census of 2010.
To some, that simple statement was a matter of course. Why should something as simple as a head count stop the enforcement of laws aiming to ferret out and deport illegal immigrants? Anti-immigration activists maintain not enough is done now to enforce those laws, so it would make no sense at all to let anything interfere with today’s very spotty efforts.
Here’s why that reasoning doesn’t work for California, or other states with large immigrant populations, like Florida, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Illinois and New York: It ignores today’s realities and can lead to rank injustice and unequal treatment of American citizens.
Just as the Supreme Court reads election returns partly to avoid injustices, ICE should also heed reality. Instead, the agency is acting as coldly as its name implies toward the states that get the bulk of the current wave of illegal immigration.
Here’s what continued enforcement during the Census period would mean to California: far less federal money that it is entitled to for everything from schools to prisons to roads and sewers and parks and medical care for the indigent. And many more categories. Plus as many as two fewer seats in Congress than it should have.
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Here’s why: Money for almost all federally-funded projects is doled out on the basis of population. So are congressional seats. Population formulas lately are even used to divvy up Homeland Security funds. So the fewer people get counted by the Census in a given state, the less money that state gets from the government for the next 10 years. Less clout, too. Never mind how many people actually depend on that state’s services, from parks to schools to emergency rooms.
If ICE continues full-fledged enforcement during the Census, it’s virtually guaranteed that California will be undercounted by at least 1 million persons and as many as 3 million.
That’s because there are a minimum of 2.5 million illegal immigrants in the state right now, with more entering every day. Their offspring born here add to the total of the potentially uncounted, even though those children are citizens.
Every 10 years, the Census Bureau advertises heavily and makes many other efforts to get illegal immigrants to come forward and be counted. In 2000, the bureau repeatedly assured illegals that being counted would not lead to deportation, and in fact there were no mass deportations as a result of the Census.
But an estimated 1.5 million illegals in this state nevertheless stayed hidden from the system and California has been paying a heavy price ever since. This is one of the reasons the state ranks near last in terms of how much it gets back in federal spending for every dollar it puts in via federal taxes.
Meanwhile, illegal immigrants who fear the Census continue to use California highways and streets, their children attend public schools and use city and state parks. Illegal immigrant families use emergency rooms because they usually lack health insurance and when they’re convicted of crimes, they usually spend time in prison before they are deported.
Yes, those illegals pay taxes of all kinds: income tax, sales tax, gasoline tax, property tax through the rents they pay, luxury taxes when they buy jewelry, and on and on. By some calculations, they pay more in taxes than they use in public services.
But if they are undercounted, state and local governments here will not get the benefit of all the taxes they pay. Much of that money will stay in Washington, D.C., or go to other states like West Virginia and Maryland, which get back far more in federal spending than they pay in taxes.
Fear is the reason for the perennial undercounts of illegal immigrants. As long as they believe they will be deported if they come forward, they will stay hidden no matter what assurances the Census may give them. If a Census taker appears on their doorstep, they will be uncooperative, feeling one federal agent is the same as the next.
Meanwhile, other Californians pay the price. Because every dollar that does not come here due to the illegal alien undercount will have to be taken from state taxpayers, unless state legislators choose to drastically cut back road construction, park maintenance and spending on schools, prisons and Medi-Cal.
So the ICE decision to keep trying to find illegals even as the Census is
encouraging them to step forward will cost California many billions of dollars unless it is changed. Are you listening, California congressional delegation?