Amnesty the Costly Price for Health Care Vote

By James R. Edwards, Jr. on July 19, 2010

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus is pressing for amnesty, in part to qualify the current 11 million illegal aliens for public health (and other) programs. A report in Politico says these lawmakers secured the Obama administration's commitment to sweep illegals into taxpayer-funded health coverage as a condition for their votes for the health care bill:

They signed on only after receiving assurances that their concerns would be rectified as part of the immigration reform battle, according to lawmakers, advocates and Hill aides.

Now, these advocates assert, it's time to pay the piper. But the price might give the spendthrift Congress and administration heartburn.

If Democrats already can't come up with ways to pay for their lower-cost, "urgent" spending items and won't get serious about cutting runaway government spending, it's hard to imagine they can satisfy budget hawks – particularly Republican budget hawks – on the fiscal effects an amnesty would have on federal spending. We're talking about unfunded liability within wide-ranging government programs for as far into the future as the eye can see.

Indicative of resistance is how Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas responded, in the same Politico article, to the CHC's push for health care expansion through amnesty: "[T]he president and congressional Democrats are trying to get illegal immigrants into the health care system through the back door."

No responsible immigration debate can take place without taking into account the full cost burden American taxpayers would have to shoulder. And make no mistake: Amnesty will add horrendously to the size of federal expenditures. That's for everything from Medicaid, as reported in my new CIS Memorandum, and other entitlement programs to welfare, housing, and the other government programs of the welfare state. The unfunded fiscal liabilities could reach the hundreds of billions of dollars.

My memo reports that 3.1 million legalized illegals would qualify for Medicaid. That is, they earn income below 133 percent of the official poverty level. They’d cost Americans an extra $8.1 billion each year – for Medicaid alone.

The Heritage Foundation's Robert Rector calculated the net fiscal drain of immigration during the last big amnesty fight. Things haven’t improved.

This debate boils down to American fiscal self-preservation. We have enough home-grown profligate spenders and welfare constituents already. We sure don't need to import more or reward foreign lawbreakers with a permanent pass into the welfare state.