Republican State Legislators: Let’s Make Life Uncomfortable for Illegal Aliens

An open memorandum to GOP state legislators

By David North on May 18, 2022

This is an open memorandum to GOP state legislators, particularly those in the 23 states where republicans control both houses of the state legislature and the governorship.

Given the Biden administration’s obvious unwillingness to control illegal immigration, why not take steps to discourage illegal aliens from staying in your state? Why not make them uncomfortable enough so they either leave it for the homeland, or at least for a state where the other party will bear their costs?

Once, many years ago, I worked as a contract employee for the Office of Refugee Resettlement in the Department of Health and Human Services. There I found that state-by-state differences in welfare rules caused newly arrived refugees (those with few ties to a community) to move in large numbers from, say, Texas, to California. Moving for people with little to move is less of a problem than those with lots of possessions and connections. The evidence for this interior migration, which I cannot summon up now, was very strong.

I see the illegal-alien population as almost equally mobile and that denying an alien a driver’s license, state income tax refunds, and/or in-state tuition in one state might well cause him to move to another, friendlier state.

Here are six places to start this process:

1. Driver’s Licenses. This is a state-only process as there are no federal driver’s licenses. Why not make sure that only legal residents of the United States. (including citizens, green card holders, and those with legitimate visas) can be issued driver’s licenses? And then provide stiff penalties, including jail time, to anyone without legal status who drives anyway.

Unfortunately, according to Wikipedia, 16 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico have laws that permit illegal aliens to get driver's licenses.

Of these, only Utah would seem to have Republican control of the governor’s office and the two houses of the legislature, and Utah has been quirky over the years about illegal immigration.

The listing above implies that 34 states have at least some negative interest in the matter of illegals driving cars. In too many of them this is a minor matter and enforcement is lax or non-existent.

Stiff penalties need to be demanded by state legislation and then enforced with vigor; GOP legislators can demand that. That could reduce the illegal-alien population in 34 of the states, expand it in the other 16, and cause some to return home.

All 23 Republican-controlled states could do more to prevent illegal aliens from getting driver’s licenses.

2. State Income Tax Refunds. Forty-one states have state income taxes, and in these states the legislators should make it mandatory that the Social Security number of the recipient of income tax refunds matches the name to which the number was issued. Most illegals use SSNs that they have purchased (or made up) and these numbers do not match the names in the system’s files. The states can use federal E-Verify resources to check out those numbers.

Some years ago, we tried to find out from state tax agencies whether they followed this common-sense requirement and got tons of non-information (and a lot of silence) in return. It’s clear to me that the SSN practice suggested above for tax purposes is the exception not the rule. One working-level tax official told us that if the SSN on a state income tax return matches the one used by the employer for the worker in question, a refund will be forthcoming.

Republican-controlled Alaska, Florida, New Hampshire, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, and Wyoming don’t have state income taxes, but the other 18 Republican-controlled states should do more to crack down on illegal aliens receiving tax refunds.

3. In-State Tuition Rates for Illegal Aliens. Many states, mostly dominated by Democrats, have granted resident illegal-alien college students the right to in-state tuition rates, despite their illegal presence in the country. While the amount of money involved is minor compared to state income tax refunds, this is a program that tends to keep some illegal aliens within the states. Since many red states do not have this program, this potential reform is available only to the GOP legislators of Florida, Texas, and Utah. The non-partisan members of Nebraska’s unicameral legislature could also revoke that state’s tuition break.

Clearly there is much more room for maneuver on driver’s licenses than in the other two reforms put together. Utah is the only Republican-controlled state that could make progress on all three fronts, while 17 of them could move on two of them, and five of them have a single option.

As to financial consequences, making income tax refunds harder for illegal aliens to get and denying them in-state tuition are money savers; I would suspect that their imposition would more than make up for any losses coming from a reduction in the driver’s license fee income.

Three other, rather less visible moves could be taken by most, if not all, of the 23 Republican-controlled states.

4. Wire Transfer Fees. Every state could follow the example of Oklahoma and raise lots of money by making a deduction of 2 percent from each wire transfer of money out of the nation; the deduction would not be a tax because it can be used as a credit on state income tax payments; no taxpayer would pay a penny for this fee. Oklahoma has found that most of these deductions are not used as income tax credits and are in no small part, one presumes, paid by illegal aliens and drug dealers. The state, which has relatively few illegal aliens, gets more than $10 million a year from this source.

5. SNAP Benefits for Illegal Aliens. Under some complex circumstances, mixed families (with both illegal and legal members) can obtain SNAP (food stamps) benefits, when an all-citizen family of the same size and income cannot; this was true the last time the Department of Agriculture published anything on this obscure subject, in 2019 (see here and here).

At that time, 44 states had adopted that option when issuing food stamps; only Arizona, Kansas, Massachusetts, New Mexico, North Carolina, and Utah did not discriminate against citizens under these circumstances. Either a governor acting alone or a state legislature can change these policies.

There are two problems in this area: First, the issue is complex and hard to explain; second, a state keeping the discriminatory policy in place gets more money from the feds than states that do not discriminate against citizens, an odd situation.

6. Professional Licenses. This one deals with an elite population, and thus with just a small group. State legislators should make sure that state licenses for, among others, physicians and architects, can only be issued to legal residents of the United States. Activist D.A. King of Georgia has been fighting the good fight on this point for years.

So, GOP state legislators, if you want to do something about illegal aliens — something that the Biden administration won’t do — here’s a six-item menu for your consideration.