Of America’s 39 million immigrants, representing 12.6% of our total population, at least 12 million are illegal. Most, but not all, come from Mexico and Central America.
What exactly do the numbers mean? Well, for one thing, they mean we’re importing a lot of poverty—and it’s skewing the debate over key public policy issues.
How often, for example, have we been hit over the head with the scary statistic that “48 million Americans don’t have health insurance.” But the statement is only partly true.
According to CIS, 34% of all immigrant households—or 13.3 million—don’t have health insurance. And of those, 8.3 million are here illegally. They make up 18% of the nation’s uninsured, if you count their American-born children.
The crisis of the uninsured, in other words, is in significant part an imported one—one that is costing untold billions.
That flies in the face of at least one widely reported recent study that claimed the U.S. spends only $1 billion on the uninsured. Even assuming that illegals use only half the health-care resources per person as the rest of the country, the total is more like $30 billion.
CIS also reckons that immigrants and their U.S.-born children account for 71% of the increase in the uninsured since 1989—a fact that usually goes unremarked upon in the debate over health-care reform.
In addition, 59% of the illegal population and their children are at or near poverty. That comes to 8.7 million people, and compares with 19% of native households.
This translates into higher use of welfare. Nationwide, 40% of all households headed by illegal aliens use one or more major welfare programs. The share in cash programs is actually quite small—less than 1%. But 33% of all illegal households get food aid, and another 27% are on Medicaid.
Together, they [California, Texas, Arizona, and Florida] have 54% of all the illegals and bear the brunt of the problem. States together spend $20 billion a year on illegals’ welfare costs alone.
In short, they’ve becoming a semi-permanent, welfare-dependent underclass.
Unfortunately, when anyone brings this up, charges of “xenophobe” and “racist” get thrown around. But that only keeps us from an honest discussion—and accounting—of both the benefits and costs of our burgeoning illegal population.
[Editors Note: “Immigrants in the United States, 2007: A Profile of America’s Foreign-Born Population,” by Steven A. Camarota, November 2007 can be read here.]