Illegal aliens are in the news again this week.
With over 20 million in the country (and yes, that may be a conservative estimate), it’s actually amazing they aren’t in the news every week… but there has long been something of a media blackout on this problem outside of the times when the Democratic talking points focused on them, as when the Obama administration tried, again and again, to convince the nation to just give them all citizenship. (For some people, nothing is too outrageous if it involves a large enough voting block).
This week, the case that propelled the issue to headlines was of a rapist, robber, and addict named Sergio Jose Martinez, caught in Portland, still committing crimes after having been deported twenty – yes, twenty – times before.
Illinoisans, knowing we have over half a million illegal aliens in our state, and massive crime as well, must read such stories and ask ourselves: How many Sergio Jose Martinezes must we have of our own?
Statistics and Estimates
Anything that happens in the shadows is naturally a bit harder to count than things that happen in the light of day. Since – by definition – it is illegal to be an illegal, estimates of their numbers, and of their effect on the community, are bound to be a bit harder to come by than, say, the publicly announced revenues of an SEC-regulated corporation, or the formally budgeted annual spending of a school district.
But talented researchers are able to collect data, and extrapolate from it, and eventually wind up with numbers that are good enough to be trusted by all sides. So we have, for example, the reports of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), which has broken down their best estimates by state, releasing information that is shocking even as it is very conservative in its projections.
Illinois, for example, according to FAIR’s scientific (and therefore very cautious) estimates, has about 550,000 illegal aliens, in a total population of under 13 million. Note that we’re not talking about immigrants here; as there are about 1.8 million immigrants in Illinois at present (these are 2012 numbers). We’re only talking about a third of the foreign-born residents of Illinois, the half million who are here illegally.
What does that do to a region? Such a presence of people living outside the law – some committing no other major violation, some committing many – must have a cost to the society. And FAIR estimates that cost to Illinois alone – again, as conservatively as they can, so they can defend it in the face of any challenge, as a cost of over four and a half billion dollars (this particular number is an old one – FAIR’s Illinois estimate was USD 4,592,121,791 for 2009; it can only have gone up from there).
In case that sounds outrageous, do the math. It’s only about $8000 per illegal alien per year, or about $32,000 per illegal alien family of four. It’s not outrageous at all. The numbers of people are just that high.
Now, that may be – and should be – shocking on its own. A state in bankruptcy cannot afford a massive cost such as 4.5 billion dollars per year due to the failure of our nation to manage its borders. Illinois is constantly raising its taxes to deal with these costs: this summer alone we have seen a one-third increase in our income tax rate, a batch of new taxes like Cook County’s draconian beverage tax, all on top of the ongoing annual increases in our already massive property tax bite.
But as shocking as that careful estimate of $4.5 billion may be, we shouldn’t think that expelling our half-million illegals would only save us those $4.5 billion.
No, it would save far more, because that public number is likely extremely low.
For starters, in order to be totally safe in defending their estimates, FAIR uses publicly available statistics that everybody accepts. This 550,000 estimate is based on the DHS estimate (for 2012) of about 11,900,000 illegal aliens nationally (combined primarily of border jumpers, with some anchor baby children and people who arrived legally on work visas, student visas, and tourist visas but stayed after their expiration).
Most honest people know that this DHS estimate is very low. Since the real total is more likely over 20 million nationally, this means that there may be as many as a million illegals in Illinois, which means that we should double the cost estimates as well:
It is therefore reasonable, when estimating the actual costs of illegal aliens, to assume Illinois’ added burden is also double the standard estimate. 9 billion dollars a year.
Yes, if we want to be honest in estimating the direct costs to the public of all these illegals in Illinois, the direct costs to our school system, the public welfare system, the police burden, etc., $9 billion per year is a better number.
Chicago, Cook County, and Evanston are all Sanctuary Cities… meaning that their governments have made the conscious decision to invite these illegal aliens into their communities, saddling their constituents with these burdens.
While compassion is laudable, would the average voter in these jurisdictions be so eager to support the choice if he or she was aware that it cost us nine billion dollars a year? Or if he or she realized that the income tax increase, the beverage tax creation, their skyrocketing property taxes, and their overcrowded schools were caused by this illegal decision by their elected officials?
The Real Costs of Illegal Aliens
Now comes the time to see the big picture. When we look at costs – like the costs that we have shared so far – we are only able to look at direct numbers, provable numbers. Researchers simply don’t dare use estimates they can’t defend.
So that means they look at what a school district outlays per student, and extrapolate from there. They look at what a police department says it costs to arrest a carjacker, mugger, or rapists, and extrapolate from there. They look at what a public hospital says it costs to deliver a baby or treat a knife wound or handle an overdose, and extrapolate from there.
That’s how we got to that official $4.5 billion figure, and how, when we appropriately double it in the knowledge that there are really twice as many illegals as publicly admitted, we come up with $9 billion.
But are these all the costs of the massive presence of illegal aliens in a community?
Let’s now look at the broader array of effects that their presence has on Illinois, the costs that don’t show up in public spending, but rather, their effect on the personal lives of the private sector.
Crime: For every crime, there is a victim. These statistics capture the city or county cost of arresting, prosecuting, and sometimes jailing the perpetrator. They don’t capture the cost to the victim.
Employment: While many illegals obtain welfare support of all kinds, many are hard-working people, willing to work long hours doing honorable jobs in construction and remodeling, restaurants and fast food, gas stations and landscaping. But there is a cost here as well. Even though these people may use less welfare payments because they earn their pay, we must consider Illinois’ unemployment levels, especially our youth unemployment. Even good, hard-working illegal aliens do damage by displacing citizens and green card holders. Our young people, our poor, the people seeking their first step on the lowest rung of the employment ladder, are displaced by hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens.
Hospitals: The statistics address the number of illegal aliens who are treated in the hospitals – the childbirths, the drug detox, the knifings and shootings. But they don’t address the victims of illegal alien crime who also wind up in the hospitals. Cook County Hospital also treats legal American immigrants and natural-born Americans who are in there for drug detox because of illegal alien pushers and their drug gangs… and who are treated for injuries sustained in rapes and muggings and barfights where the perpetrator was an illegal alien… and who are in there for treatment of drive-by shootings, the nearly daily occurrence in Chicago caused by the reckless violence of gangland activity. The native-born American child shot and killed on his own front porch by a random bullet from an MS-13 thug doesn’t show up in these statistics, but that human life lost, and all the costs associated with his death, are also the fault of the criminal illegals of the Sanctuary City.
What is the result of all these challenges, all these burdens on our economy?
- A tax code so crippling that it drives businesses out of the state and lowers our property values, so that when we seek to flee ourselves, we can’t get what we paid for our houses when we bought them. No sane person wants to move to Illinois, or start a company here, or even expand one already in place.
- Crime levels so severe that they drive up the property insurance and renters insurance on our houses and apartments, and adding to the insurance rates on businesses so that they are forced to flee, taking all those jobs out of our community and delivering them to some other community, far away, in another state or even another country.
- Outrageous rates for auto insurance, because of the ridiculously higher risk of being hit by uninsured aliens while they’re DUI, and the greater risk of car break-ins and carjackings and regular car theft.
Live in a place like Cook County long enough, and you tend to forget how high our cost of living is – at least, the cost of living for those not supported on the shoulders of others.
The illegal aliens aren’t the total cause of our high taxes, high crime, and low employment; there are homegrown causes as well. But imagine if all our criminals were the homegrown ones, and we didn’t import more. Imagine if the only people competing with our kids for their first jobs were people here legally. Imagine if potential employers, looking for a new place to start or expand their businesses, could see Chicagoland as a safe, low-tax big city, where the positives outweighed the negatives, as in fact they once did?
Our lives would be very different indeed.
And remember, always remember… this isn’t about immigrants in general (this author’s grandfather emigrated from Italy, and other great grandparents arrived from Ireland and Austria)… it’s about illegal aliens, people without permission to be here, people whose effect on the community is completely different from that of the legal immigrant community, people who in fact do the most damage, both short-term and long-term, to the legal immigrants with whom they blend in so well.
The Law of Unseen Consequences
Contrary to what you learned in your Paul Samuelson economics textbook, politics and economics are not about formulas; they aren’t about the various ways to slice up a pie in what we call a ‘zero sum game.”
Every political choice has human consequences, because every political choice either inspires people one way or another.
Lower tax rates, and you inspire people to be productive, because they’ll derive more of the benefits of their labor. Raise tax rates, and you depress that productivity, as people learn that the harder they work, the more they’ll be punished.
The same goes for every government decision, which makes it hard, even impossible, for researchers to forecast results.
We see this locally, in Chicagoland, as this column goes to press: The Cook County Board of Confiscators has created a new beverage tax that they expect to produce a windfall of hundreds of millions of dollars per year… but it will not. They view past statistics, and assume that a higher tax rate will produce higher collections. Realistic people know that adding $2.88 to every 24-pack of pop will drive shoppers to make their grocery purchases across the county line. This will cost the county not only that anticipated added revenue, but the other taxes that they would have received normally… it will cause the businesses to lay off people. It will cause grocery stores and fast food places to close down or move away, causing massive unemployment and an increase in the already unaffordable welfare and unemployment burden on our cities, our counties, and our state.
But these are the unseen consequences, the ones that you can’t obtain with a calculator, but with the application of common sense, so lacking in so many politicians today.
We see the same problem in every national debate with an economic aspect… the Obamacare repeal, the business tax cut effort, and issues like welfare reform and corporate regulation reform.
Every time Congress proposes a bill, they wait for the Congressional Budget Office to “score” it, by declaring its effect upon the economy and the federal budget.
CBO forecasts are terrible, not necessarily even because they mean for them to be, but because they have to be; they are bound by economic modeling rules that don’t take into account the broader effect the law would have on human choices.
Example: If we cut the corporate tax rate in half – from the currently outrageous effective rate of about 38% to the more rational and competitive rate of 17 to 19 percent as the Republicans propose – what will be the result? The CBO assumes that federal business tax revenues will be cut in half… but we know that the true result will be a massive return of investment, an explosion of existing business expansions and new business startups, and a boom in new jobs.
The CBO can’t consider all that because they are only allowed to look at direct spending and direct revenues based on past numbers. They are not allowed to apply the real view of economics as a human science, asking “what real effect will the bill have on human behavior?” And this makes all the difference.
Another example: If we repeal Obamacare – as we MUST – the CBO feels that it must ask, how many people would continue to buy Obamacare insurance at its current rate of increase in price, if it were not mandated? Naturally, the answer is none, because it is a terrible product that people only buy because they are forced to.
But if we repeal Obamacare’s mandate and the federal subsidies for its purchase, there will suddenly be a huge expansion of options in the marketplace. Businesses will increase hiring, so people now without insurance will get it from their jobs. Insurance companies will no longer be banned from selling the broad variety of plans – high deductible and low cost, low deductible and higher cost, and everything in between – that they used to offer before Obamacare went into effect… and people will respond to these offers, and buy them again.
In fact, when we pass good laws that enable greater economic growth and greater personal options, good things will happen, but the zero-sum game economists are not even allowed to make such estimates.
So whether we talk about the costs to an economy of illegal aliens, or of crippling taxes, or of destructive government mandates, we must always remember that the truth of their effects is like an iceberg: only certain surface effects may be visible under normal research rules; to really anticipate the results of public policy change, and see the big picture, you need to consider the human aspect, the result of the changes on human behavior.
So much more is possible when we leave our calculators aside and empower people with individual liberty in a nation protected by limited government, enforcing the rule of law.
Copyright 2017 John F. Di Leo
John F. Di Leo is a Chicagoland-based writer, actor, Customs broker and transportation professional. A former President of the Ethnic American Council and past County Chairman of the Milwaukee County Republican Party, he has been a recovering politician for twenty years (but, like every addiction, one is never completely cured from it).
Permission is hereby granted to forward freely, provided it is uncut and the IR URL and byline are included.