As we contemplate granting full citizenship to millions more legal and illegal low-skilled immigrants, it would be wise to review the status of the current welfare state. Robert Rector and Jennifer Marshall of the Heritage Foundation, two of the leading experts on welfare policy and poverty, have put out an informative report on the welfare state and where we are headed in terms of reform policies. Here are some of the key points:
Oh, and one more point: none of this factors in the projected cost and dependency level of Obamacare.
It is absolutely stupefying that so many libertarians have no problem with granting citizenship to so many illegals who would be eligible for transfer programs. To ignore this as a fiscal issue is to ignore reality. In 2007, Robert Rector estimated that the McCain-Kennedy amnesty bill would cost roughly $2.6 trillion. Remember that was before the gutting of welfare reform and the massive eligibility expansions under Obama.
During his charm offensive on talk radio, Rubio assured conservatives that under his plan the amnestied immigrants would not be eligible for welfare (except for Obamacare, a provision he says is concerning). However, that is only during the probationary period. All of them would then be eligible for a green card and citizenship (if they pay a fine and buy an English textbook, as if the executive will even enforce that), at which point they could receive welfare.
This is also something we need to keep in mind regarding any proposal to grant them a permanent legal resident status without any path to citizenship. I’m open to suggestions, but it’s hard to imagine how we could legally and politically firewall welfare benefits from such a large group that is granted permanent residence. Temporary migrant worker visas are one thing, but an entire constituency of PLRs with a massive legal advocacy arm is quite another.
A number of libertarians have suggested that, at its core, this is a welfare problem, not an immigration problem. There is a lot of truth to that assertion. However, we must remember that the robust welfare state is the law of the land, and the courts have been very liberal in spreading the benefits around to the broad population. Amnesty and citizenship for illegals is not the law of the land. We have to analyze any immigration proposal through the reality of the current welfare state. No fiscal conservative can support such a plan before we enact wholesale welfare reform.
In a sane world we would immediately enact the enforcement measures and reforms to the legal immigration system, such as abolishing the diversity visa lottery. But Washington is not sane. And they believe that such commonsense reforms cannot be enacted until there are 12 million new welfare recipients and Democrat voters.
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