Illegal Immigration in the Legislature

See story on Rep. Tommy Benton’s efforts to reduce illegal immigration.

“If you’re illegal, you ought not to be eligible for any scholarships or anything that citizens would be eligible for,” Benton said. “That includes medical care, that includes education, that includes any type of scholarships to schools.”

Benton is a first-term GOP Rep from Jefferson, and is co-sponsoring a “pending bill that outlaws governments from hiring or paying anybody who is in the country illegally.” How will this issue play in the next session?


  1. buzzbrockway says:

    It will be a big issue in the upcoming legislative session, IMHO. Despite the failed rally held a few weeks back, this is a big issue.

    I doubt they will be able to prevent illegal immigrants from obtaining medical care. No doctor is going to turn away a sick or injured person based on citizenship or ability to pay.

  2. GAWire says:

    Good point, Buzz. You are right that doctors won’t turn them away, but we all know who ends up paying for those services in the end.

  3. In a lot of cases I think no one ends up paying. Maybe the doctors will be in play when their new friends the GOP will be telling them that while they may help them save $1,000/year on malpractice insurance (and that is a big if) they will also not pay them for upwards of 10% of their patients’ care. Since most doctors make more than $10,000/year I’m guessing one issue will end up dwarfing the other.

  4. Ben King says:

    Current Supreme Court law I think prevents medical care and primary education from being denied anyone. My understanding is that these sorts of bills are intended to be used to challenge these rulings.

    GAWire – there are actually studies that show that immigrants put more money into Federal taxes than they receive back. I don’t have the time to search for links right now, but the issue is a lot more complex than you’ve simplified it down to.

    Immigrants do have an effect on our medical system, I’m not saying they don’t. But you have to take the entire economic impact into account. Many immigrants pay taxes on fraudulent social security numbers – that is money going straight into the system. Immigrants pay taxes on things they buy, same as you and me. Gas, cars, television sets, etc. – immigrants buy these things and pay sales tax. Georgia Hispanic buying power has been estimated at $8-11 billion dollars in 2004. Immigrants actually go to the hospital very little – most are coming from societies with little medical care and large homeopathic traditions, plus most don’t have insurance and so they simply don’t go, the same as most poor people. Also, a lot of immigrants pay for doctors visits with cash (yes, this actually happens). That said, yes, there are immigrants that use the emergency room and don’t pay. I’m just trying to provide a more complete picture.

    Then of course there is the whole ‘free market’ debate – how much are you willing to pay for a chicken breast, how many folks in N. Ga are willing to work at a poultry plant? I think most would rather work at Wal-mart, frankly. (If that were my choice, I’d work at Wal-mart). Are you willing to hold the companies accountable (lets see that pass!). Most immigrant workers are in the fastest growing areas, where there is a legitimate shortage of labor.

    Then of course there is the approachtaken by Sen. Chambliss about limiting education, “”I’m opposed to that. I think that’s wrong…these are kids. And they didn’t choose to [come here]”. Politically, the national GOP has shied away from this because it was a big vote loser in California and Bush made some gains with Latino communities this last election.

    You are right, this is going to be a big issue this year. The question is how will the GOP handle it. The real answer is that we need to pressure Congress to approach the issue in a responsible manner, which means not listening to folks like Tancredo or Norwood. State level legislation intended to a)punish children and b)rally the crazies on the fringe (remember, they had to pay people to rally – they are fringe) will not solve the problems (and everyone agrees that there are problems.

    This does not need to be a partisan issue, really. Democratic Governors on the border states have declared emergency zones for the borders, and are willing to get tough on border enforcement. But it needs to be matched by an equal willingness to view the situation here realistically and responsibly.

  5. macongop says:

    I agree that Illegals withdraw less from the system, ie. Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid, if their employer is actually paying all of the taxes that are due. They are usually to scared or have returned to their native country. But Tax payers are on the hook for Indigent care cost. Just look at what happens here in macon and Bibb County every year with the Med Center when it is time to set the Millage rates. The Tax payers are the ones the have to shell out the money either by supplementing the fund with tax payers dollars or by allowing the Med Center to be Tax exempt and taking off the tax digest. Either way, the illegals need to be stop.

  6. TigerLily says:

    Ben, you are correct. The feds require that the states provide K-12 education as well as emergency care services.

  7. Without making any sort of value judgement, how much does indigent health care costs really add to taxpayers bills in a county? $100 / year? And that would seem like a high estimate, on average. I would guess illegal workers save the average taxpayer at least twice that much, especially in a year they buy something (like a house) that is likely to have had some illegal labor go into it.

    For conservatives, Bush’s guest worker program could be the worst of both worlds — allow illegals to stay (which they don’t want) and also drive up the cost of labor (which they can’t afford). $100/year in taxes to fund indigent healthcare will seem like pennies if all of a sudden industry pays prevailing legal wages where it had before hired illegals at under the table wages, and of course passes it on to the consumer, as conservatives are want to remind us all costs (taxes etc) are passed on to the consumer..

  8. GAWire says:

    I think Macongop made my point that others previously missed – the companies aren’t the payers for illegal immigrants’ healthcare – you, me and the rest of the taxpayers are! Also, Ben pointed out that it is a complicated system, and I agree, but let’s not make it too complicated – when it boils down to the core of the problem – illegals are costing our healthcare system beaucoup cash! I will try to get some numbers, but I can assure you that the strains and costs of illegal immigration on the US healthcare system are in the billions of dollars.

    Here is some info and stats on illegal immigration costs on healthcare:

    $3 Billion a year in extra costs on Medicaid program; In some hospitals, as much as two-thirds of total operating costs are for uncompensated care for illegal aliens; and, the increase in uncompensated care for immigrants has forced some hospitals to reduce staff, increase rates, cut back services, and close maternity wards and trauma centers; Border hospitals reported losses of almost $190 million in unreimbursed costs for treating illegal aliens in 2000, with another $113 million in ambulance fees and follow-up services. Think about the affect that just these limited facts have on the healthcare system and the economy in general.

    Admittedly, I do not have some great solution for this problem, and it is definitely a complicated issue that will take time to resolve, but I agree with the others that this and other legislation addressing this problem should be heard and considered.

  9. Decaturguy says:

    The people of Georgia deserve a intelligent debate on the problems of illegal immigration. Yes, they are a drain on our public services, what would our economy be like without them? What would happen to our labor pool? Would it increase wages in such a way that inflation would skyrocket? Does denying people access to education and health care really help our economy? Or does it lead to a greater burden on our economy and public services in the future? Do politicians really want to be in the business of kicking sick people out of hospitals and bright young children out of their schools? Those don’t appear to be good images to me.

    These questions should be analyzed instead of passing knee-jerk proposals that politicians hope will get them elected in 2006.

  10. rickday says:

    It will be interesting to observe who openly opposes/lobbies against immigration refom. Only those with a special interest would wish to see this bill defeated, with the status quo intact.

    Indeed, who will crawl out from under the rocks to oppose immigration reform, and where their ties to business take them?

    I venture to guess that business that cater to roads, “quick loan” dives, and developers will adamantly oppose the reform, anyone else?

    We will be watching….

  11. Melb says:

    The legislature thinks that denying these things to illegal immigrants will make them not want to come to Georgia, but they come here to work, they don’t come here because they get some sort of special benefit. If you look at some of the highest illegal immigration states: California, Arizona, and Texas, Arizona and Texas have sticter laws about benefits than California yet California’s immigration has gone down while Arizona and Texas have gone up. The legislature will not attack the businesses because they don’t want to upset them, but they see these immigrants as easy targets and a way to rouse up their base. These bills show that republicans are not looking for any type of meaningful reform and are willing to gamble the lives of children, our economy, and health of our citizens for a cheap political ploy.

  12. GAWire says:

    DG, you do make valid points – if illegal immigration were to stop, the economy would suffer; albeit, in the short term. Furthermore, I agree that we can’t just turn them away from healthcare and education as if they are lower and undeserving people, but as long as this continues, we will still be the ones paying for their healthcare and other services.

    Healthy immigration reform that decreases the drain illegal aliens have on our healthcare system – both in regards to price and quality – are not necessarily knee-jerk proposals.

  13. GAWire says:

    >>”””These bills show that republicans are not looking for any type of meaningful reform and are willing to gamble the lives of children, our economy, and health of our citizens for a cheap political ploy.”””

    1) Our children? OUR children suffer the consequences of more expensive and lesser quality healthcare b/c of the drain illegal immigration has had on our healthcare system.

    2) Our economy? Illegal aliens might work jobs that many Americans don’t want but there is no long-term stability in the theory that we should let illegals work jobs for lesser cash that is off the books. That in and of itself is a long-term drain on our economy, and presents no real solution to a problem that is only going to increase over the years.

    3) Health of our citizens? Back to my earlier point – OUR citizens are receiving higher costs of healthcare and a decrease in quality b/c of the additional billions of dollars illegal immigrants cost our healthcare system each year.

    4) A political ploy? I’m not saying this legislation is the solution . . . just as I don’t necessarily think a worker program is the best solution – but at least these are things that can bring us closer to a long-term solution and some sort of reform.

  14. Melb says:

    The children of immigrants who will grow up without an education are more likely to turn to crime — which will then be a burden of taking care of these people in jail and will hurt our state.

    The children who can’t get immunizations will further infect other children and get others sick.

    The children will be punished for their parents mistake — which is really an earnest desire to provide for their family.

    Our economy will suffer and not in the short term
    –example– the INS did a raid in South Georgia and the farmers had such a fit because there was no one to harvest their crops that they let them go back to do it.

    Our economy will suffer if we have to spend millions of dollars to try and take these people back to wherever they have come from.

    Our economy will suffer because people will not be able to pay for the things they want because the cost will go up.

    Our economy will suffer because business that want to use illegal immigration will move to another state, taking with them the administrative jobs as well as the lower income jobs, and it will take away the buying power/taxes of a large immigrant community.

    Our health will suffer because if a bunch of people are sick then they run the risk of getting everyone else sick. And if an immigrant goes to the hospital without care are they just going to leave him on the front step??

    This legislation is not the solution and doesn’t bring us closer to anything. If the answer to a problem is take away healthcare and education it doesn’t seem like that is going to benefit the community. These people are integrated into our society and many of them pay taxes and not just sales tax, they pay income tax, social security, and ga state tax. Many of them get a check just like you and I and they break it down for them and take out taxes. If anything trying to regulate the companies that use immigrant labor without taxing them would be good immigration reform. Don’t make it illegal because it would be impossible to control, but construction workers, gardeners, etc. need to make the people they hire pay taxes, that way it would alleviate the burden of healthcare and education costs without hurting children, the economy, and the health of our citizens.

  15. Ben King says:

    >Indeed, who will crawl out from under the rocks to oppose immigration reform, and where their ties to business take them?

    If you’ve actually followed the immigration debate, you’d know that ‘business’ has stayed pretty mum. Maybe some business lobbies have put pressure on the GOP to prevent this bill, but I certainly haven’t seen it. Mostly I think this hasn’t been embraced yet by leadership because they know that it is a hot button issue that hasn’t been a proven ‘winner’ yet. Also because they know it’d be bad for business.

    GAWire – where are you getting your numbers? Every time non-partisan Congressional offices have tried to study the issue, they come back inconclusive. A lot of anti-immigrant groups have put out reports that are seriously flawed. With that said, these groups have also put out reports which show that illegal immigrant families contribute more to medicare/medicaid and social security than they take out of those programs. So look at it this way – if immigrants put more into medical programs than they take out, then the real issue with the border hospitals is the federal government’s inability to compensate these hospitals.

    however,I’ll give you points for having the gall to basically say “yes, this is complicated. but lets ignore that! remember my talking point – illegals are bad and stealing our money!”. Way to go.

    >2) Our economy? Illegal aliens might work jobs that many Americans don’t want but there is no long-term stability in the theory that we should let illegals work jobs for lesser cash that is off the books. That in and of itself is a long-term drain on our economy

    How does that jive with the GOP’s free market, no-tax, no labor union approach? When are regulations good and when are they bad? Are saying that making businesses pay quality wages and taxes is good for the economy? I’ve got my own ideas about wages, taxes, and the economy, don’t read this as my arguing one way or the other. I’m just pointing out a possible logical inconsistency with that approach. You may want to reconsider that talking point.

  16. Ben King says:

    I will add to my first point that I think it is apparent that GOP leadership _has_ embraced this idea, they just haven’t really in previous sessions. Pay attention to today’s Virginia election. The GOP candidate Kilgore made a strong anti-immigrant push.

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