Take action now; stop illegal immigration

Letter date: 
Sunday, November 4, 2012
Letter publisher: 
The Missoulian
Letter author: 
Paul Nachman
Letter body: 

In the coming election, Montana voters can demonstrate their concern about illegal immigration by voting for Legislative Referendum 121 to deny some state-taxpayer-funded benefits and services to illegal aliens. As a refugee from 10 years living in the illegal-immigration-driven dysfunction of southern California, I’ll explain why you should help enact LR-121 with your “FOR” vote.

How bad is Montana’s illegal immigration problem? Clearly, there are illegal aliens among us: Routine news reports from around the state of illegal aliens’ apprehension by law enforcement are sufficient evidence. For example, an article in the April 2, 2010, Billings Gazette reported arrests in the preceding few weeks, by Border Patrol officers based in Havre, of 20 illegal aliens hailing, variously, from El Salvador, Honduras, Iraq, Mexico and Poland.

Indeed, the U.S. Attorney for Montana’s office prosecutes a steady stream of immigration violators, primarily people who have re-entered the U.S. illegally after being deported, a felony. In 2009, about 6.5 percent of the sentences for criminal offenses that they reported were for such illegal re-entries. (That same year, fully one-third of the U.S. Attorney for Wyoming’s cases involved illegal aliens.)

Overall, illegal immigration isn’t yet a glaring problem for Montana, but we should learn from the costly mistakes of other states, such as Georgia. In 1990, Georgia had approximately 35,000 illegal aliens, “merely” half of one percent of its then 6.5-million population. By 2010 Georgia had about 425,000 illegal aliens (4.4 percent out of 9.7 million). For the same years, the percentages in Texas were 2.6 and 6.6; in California they were 5.0 and 6.8. (These numbers come from a February, 2011 Pew Hispanic Center report and include illegal aliens of all nationalities.)

If they thought about it at all, those 1990 Georgians probably told themselves, “Illegal immigration is only a problem for southwest border states, like Texas and California.” So they ignored it until, percentage-wise, their illegal-alien population became Texas- or California-sized. Now Georgia spends more than $2 billion annually on public benefits for families headed by illegal aliens (above and beyond the modest state and local taxes those families pay), according to calculations by the Federation for American Immigration Reform. Other states that are far from our southern border, such as Florida, Illinois, New Jersey and New York, similarly endure multibillion-dollar burdens on their annual budgets due to burgeoning illegal immigration.

What are the numbers for Montana? Using the Pew Center’s estimate of 5,000 illegal aliens residing here (“merely” half of one percent of our population), FAIR calculated illegal immigration’s impact on Montana’s annual budget at $30 million. And this doesn’t include the costs of public benefits for U.S. citizens and legally-resident aliens who are unemployed because of job competition from illegal aliens.

So when our 2011 legislature passed bill HB 638, which placed LR-121 on the ballot, they had good reason. If we citizens enact it, LR-121 will prevent illegal aliens from getting jobs with state agencies, receiving state-issued professional and trade licenses, collecting unemployment benefits, and more.

Opponents of LR-121 fuss about the cost of implementing it. Their complaints are a smokescreen: The online federal database specified in LR-121 as its enforcement mechanism has been in routine use for years by Montana public-benefits agencies; they access it to check for legal presence when non-citizens apply for federally funded benefits such as Medicaid, welfare, and food stamps. Notably, no state agencies testified against HB 638 during its legislative hearings.

Further, the opponents ignore the cost of doing nothing. In short, the costs of complying with LR-121 and, thereby, discouraging illegal aliens’ presence here are minor compared to the millions of dollars illegal aliens cost Montana annually, both directly, through the cost of benefits to their households, and indirectly through the burden of helping citizens displaced from their jobs by illegal workers.

So, Montana voters, let’s use common sense and learn from the careless experiences of other states: For the sake of Montana’s current and future generations, please vote “FOR” LR-121.

Paul Nachman, who lives in Bozeman, is a retired physicist and a founding member of Montanans for Immigration Law Enforcement. MILE’s website is www.MontanaMILE.orgwww.MontanaMILE.org.