Diagnosis for Democracy
Insights into the State of Our Union
A Blog by Rob Tenery, MD

October 10, 2014: Should Our "Squatters" Get a Free Ride?

By Rob Tenery, MD on October 10, 2014

This country is utopia to many disadvantaged around the world. When they take up residence in this country illegally, they become squatters that are slowly, but surely, causing irreparable harm to the American dream. 

The number of people residing in the United States illegally is reported to be now well over 11 million, although some estimates range up to 30 million. With the recent deluge across our southern border, that number is increasing by the hundreds to the thousands daily. Although this country has immigration laws to address these individuals once they enter this country, many skirt the system, blending into the community, almost unnoticed. In a very real sense, they are the “squatters” of American society, enjoying the privileges and many of the benefits earned by those who reside here legally --- protection from harm, emergency medical care, public education, and automatic citizenship for their children if they are born in the United States.

Traditionally, squatters are individuals that occupy property they do not own, rent, or have lawful permission to use. In many aspects, illegal aliens are this country’s squatters, using the property or resources of others without permission.  While squatters of land usually occupy property of others that is not being used, these illegal inhabitants in the United States are using and consuming resources that could benefit others who have a legal right to those same resources. The incurred costs are then passed on to those legal citizens or added to the debt for future generations to resolve.

According to the National Research Council, the costs, to the American taxpayers of 11 million illegal aliens, is estimated at $346 billion annually. In 2013, the Center for Immigration Studies estimated the medical costs for uninsured individuals at $4.3 billion/year, primarily through emergency rooms and free clinics. This number doesn’t include the billions of dollars more that are being adsorbed by the hospitals for in-patient care. (1)

Reportedly, illegal immigrants, who have not paid anything into the Medicaid program, are receiving about $2 billion/annually in benefits under the Emergency Medicaid program as part of a state-federal health insurance program for the poor. Babies (called anchor) born in this country to non-documented parents are automatically granted citizenship. It is estimated that, through the numerous entitlement programs of which these infants are eligible, they generate costs to the United States at a current rate of $58 billion/year. (2)

In 2012, more than one-fourth of the prisoners in our federal institutions were illegal aliens.  Another 297,000 were incarcerated in state and local prisons. The estimated costs, in a 2010 study, were $7.8 billion annually on a federal level, and $8.7 billion to the state and local governments. Data collected in the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program system in 2009 also suggests that nationally the illegal alien population has a higher criminal incarceration rate at 5.4 percent compared to the overall population at 3.9 percent. In a Congressional Research Service report in 2012, if not deported upon their release, nearly one-sixth of these incarcerated illegal aliens were subsequently arrested again. (3)

Estimates of at least $35 billion of the wages earned by our illegal residents are sent back to their families in their native country and not spent here in the United States. (4) Much of their revenue is through cash transactions and does not move back into the coffers in the form of tax revenue that funds many of the programs that support the public education, highway construction, hospital funding and military protection that shore up their existence here in this country.

The ongoing costs from lost taxes, incarceration expenses, entitlement program payments, education expenditures and medical benefits incurred by illegal aliens are unsustainable. Although almost everyone agrees that effectively closing the border is the only answer, the other concern is what to do with the illegal aliens who have already become a part of the community and those who illegally pour across our border in increasing numbers.

There are two pervious events that have attempted to address immigration reform that should serve as lessons for the leadership in Washington. The first is President Ronald Reagan’s Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) that he signed into law on November 6, 1986. In turn for granting an estimated four million illegal immigrants eligibility for legal status, the new law theoretically required employers to attest to their employees legal status and made it illegal to knowingly hire or recruit illegal immigrants. Although there were rough times getting the final bill to Reagan’s desk, with bipartisan support and no prior legislative experience in addressing immigration problems, he signed the bill into law. Approximately 2.7 million immigrants took advantage of the new law. (5,6)

Most historians consider IRCA a failure. Agricultural employers shifted their efforts to finding alternative sources of foreign labor, through temporary worker programs. Many employers started hiring through subcontractors, which allayed some of their liability since the workers were not their direct employees. The enforcement requirements, such as employer sanctions for violators, were spotty or, in some cases, never materialized. (5,6)

The second event is President Obama’s Executive Order on June 15, 2012 that created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. According to some experts, the President was chiding Congress for not passing the controversial Dream Act. The program, created by the President’s mandate, allows undocumented youth, who entered this country when they were less than eighteen, to stay temporally, but does not grant them permanent legal status. They are eligible to obtain documents that will allow them to stay and work, but this only applies for a two-year period. At the end of that time, they must re-file for an extension under the program. (7) The consensus, by many in Washington, is that the President’s Executive Order, at the very least, set the stage for the recent deluge of unaccompanied minors and families from Central America that are flooding across our southern border. (8)

Robert Rector, published Heritage Foundation Web Memo #1490 on Immigration on June 6, 2007. Even though the article was created to address the concerns raised in the debate over the Senate Bill: Secure Borders, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Reform Act of 2007 (S. 1348), Rector’s conclusions should give the President and members of Congress reason to pause. Using the demographics of the illegal immigrant population that were being considered for citizenship, he concluded, “the increase in taxes and fines paid by amnesty recipients may initially slightly exceed the increase in government benefits received. In the long run, however, the opposite will be true. In particular, the cost of retirement benefits for amnesty recipients is likely to be very large. Overall, the net cost to taxpayers of retirement benefits for amnesty recipients is likely to be at least $2.6 trillion.”(9)

Our leadership in Washington has reached a stalemate over the illegal immigration issue, not necessarily over what is right, versus wrong, but what is in their particular political party’s best interest--- what benefits the Democrats the most in future elections and what hurts the Republications the least. These elected officials might just be pitting the future of our own children against the ‘squatters’ that have taken up residence in our country illegally. Sounds cruel, but that’s the reality!

Follow amnesty to its conclusion. Former ‘squatters’ become legal citizens. As before, they work, but now they will pay taxes and vote. Demographics point out that 49 to 61 percent of adult, illegal immigrants lack a high school diploma versus 9 percent of native-born adults. Additionally, they have twice the poverty rate. (9) How much will they rely on the state and federal entitlement programs? How likely do you think they will be to vote for those who support for expansion of their entitlement benefits?

Those answers could be just an Executive Order away --- but that would be after the November election! (10)

"And six years ago, I asked you to believe, and tonight, I ask you to keep believing, not just in my ability to bring about change, but in your ability to bring about change. Because in the end, DREAMER is more than just a title, it's a pretty good description of what it means to be an American.” *(11)

* Dreamers are young people who were brought to this country illegally as children.



  1. http://www.moneynews.com/NealAshbury/Immigration-healthcare-illegal-emergency/2013/05/09/id/5023579/

  2. Tenery, R., Birthright Citizenship: The Silent Costs, Echos, for the Future December 10,2010.

  3. http://www.fairus.org/issue/criminal-aliens

  4. http://www.renewamerica.com//bb/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=13844

  5. http://wikipedia.org/wiki/immigration_Reform_and_Control_Act_of_1986

  6. http://dailycaller.com/2014/02/06/reagans-amnesty-didnt-work/

  7. http://www.brookings.edu/Reasearch/Reports/2013/08/14-daca-immigration-singer

  8. http://www.ocregister.com/articles/obama-630087-immigration-daca.html

  9. http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2007/06/amnesty-will-cost-ustaxpayers-at-least-26-trillion

  10. 10.  http://the hill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/219137-aide-obama-will-make-good-on-immigration-promise

  11. 11.  President Barack Obama, address to the Congressional Hispanic Congress, October 2, 2014.

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