The Price of L.A.'s Illegals – and Then Some

By James R. Edwards, Jr. on January 23, 2011

An estimate by a Los Angeles County supervisor finds that his county spent more than $600 million in 2010 on welfare for the children of illegal aliens. That's up more than $30 million over the previous year.

The cost estimate accounts only for food stamps and welfare benefits through the CalWORKS program. The figure does not reflect any direct costs from illegal alien parents themselves, nor from their children's education, health care, or public safety. However, the supervisor notes that illegal immigrant parents typically collect the kids' welfare. Such costs fall primarily upon localities and states. L.A. County saw 22 percent of its welfare spending go to illegal aliens' U.S.-born children.

The L.A. County example is representative of the very real fiscal problem that illegal immigration causes. But massive legal immigration is an even bigger problem, particularly the legal immigration of unskilled foreigners for whom any slave-wage job here is a huge step up and who can and will undercut American workers' standard of living. It thwarts the free market's self-regulatory power and distorts the labor market and our economy. That's because legal immigrants, unlike illegals, get massive taxpayer subsidies through everything from the Earned Income Tax Credit to Medicaid to welfare benefits. Their public burden effectively serves as a subsidy for those employers who hire foreign workers. The immigration causes a double whammy: Legal immigrants collect tens of thousands of dollars in taxpayer subsidies on the one hand, and diminish Americans' economic opportunity and living standards on the other.

Libertarians, many of them out of touch with the actual world we live in, retort "Immigration, yes; welfare, no!" Well, how's that ending-the-welfare-state thing working out for you? Free-market economics icon Milton Friedman famously noted, "It's just obvious you can't have free immigration and a welfare state." Obviously! Yet, many of his acolytes in libertarian circles remain clueless.

The Heritage Foundation's national treasure, Robert Rector, powerfully detailed why Friedman got this one right and post-American, open-borders zealots parading as libertarians miss the obvious. Rector explained that we face not merely redistribution of wealth through the welfare state, but the wholesale transformation of our society into a wealth-transfer state. The pace down that path has only hastened. And massive immigration, both legal and illegal, acts as a steroid to grow the welfare/transfer state.