The Costly Burden of Illegal Immigration

August 3rd, 2014
in econ_news

by Shelley Kais

The rest of the nation is beginning to see what we in Southern Arizona have known all along: the border is not secure. What most Americans don't yet understand is that the arrival of tens of thousands of Central Americans is no surprise: not to the President, not to the federal government's Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), not to the many other federal agencies whose budgets have increased in recent years in preparation for it, and not to Congress, which approves those budgets.

Follow up:

I reached this conclusion following a thorough analysis of budgets for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and discovered compelling evidence that our President, executive agencies - and even Congress - knew about and planned for the illegal immigrants now flooding our border.

The first spike in funding was from FY 2012 to FY 2013, when the budget for ORR, a unit of HHS and parent organization for the Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC) program, increased 123 percent. That compares to the more moderate increase of 13 percent that occurred from FY 2011 to 2012. The UAC program

"provides unaccompanied alien children with a safe and appropriate environment as well as client-focused highest quality of care to maximize the UAC's opportunities for success both while in care, and upon discharge from the program to sponsors in the U.S. or return to home country."

It is important to recognize that preparations for the FY 2012 budget began no later than September 2010, at least 13 months before being enacted in October 2011!

Then the UAC budget increased by another 140 percent in FY 2013. This year it is costing American taxpayers $868 million, and it is expected to receive more than $1.94 billion next year. That is a 1,200-percent increase since FY 2011. There is only one way that the administration could have projected back then the need to dramatically increase the budget of the UAC program: It must have known that the surge of illegal immigrants at our border was coming.

For the current fiscal year (FY 2014), the UAC budget provides funding to accommodate 60,000 children. Between 2003 and 2011 it only served about 7,000 children per year.

HHS is also the parent organization for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Is the nation's health protection agency prepared for a potential public health crisis? Consider what the CDC's figures show about tuberculosis (TB):

  • In 2013, 64 percent of TB cases and 91 percent of all multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR TB) cases in the U.S. occurred among people born in other countries.
  • The rate of TB for foreign-born people is 11 times high than for U.S. born.
  • There were 569 deaths from TB in 2010, the last year for which figures were available.
  • The percentage of MDR TB cases occurring in foreign-born persons increased from 25.3 percent in 1993 to 86.1 percent in 2012.

The increase in illegal immigration is not only a national-security and a health issue, but an economic issue also. U.S. taxpayers will almost certainly pay the cost of treating TB in illegal immigrants and the persons they infect. These are the costs:

  • TB takes 6 to 9 months of treatment at a cost of $17,000.
  • MDR TB requires 20 to 26 months at a cost of $134,000.
  • XDR TB requires 32 months at a cost of $430,000.

If tuberculosis caused a public health crisis in the U.S., the economic impact on taxpayers and the medical system, and the loss of productivity for industry would be in the billions of dollars.

As far as we can determine, the funding surge for UAC has not been accompanied by the needed preparations to prevent a potential public health disaster. Preventing disease spread requires public awareness and education, not just money. And the cost of failure is measured in lives as well as dollars.

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