Immigration and the States: When You're Broke, Fix It

The National Governor’s Association (NGA) annual summer meeting in Biloxi, Mississippi puts a new exclamation point on the dire financial times afflicting the economy and all levels of government.  With California $26 billion in the red and many other states facing a fiscal crisis of record proportions, half of member governors decided to forgo the NGA’s meeting altogether.

On immigration, the talk in Washington is about a looming comprehensive immigration reform debate to reduce or eliminate illegal immigration, restore the rule of law, and set a rational immigration policy at the federal level (where it belongs) moving forward.  But, almost all of what is actually being done these days makes fiscal problems worse for the country and worse for the states. 

Specifically, Washington is coming up with new ways to:

  1. Drive down tax revenues at all levels of government by driving taxpayers who are currently on-the-books and paying their fair share of taxes into the untaxed underground economy;
  2. Expand unfunded mandates to states by shifting immigration enforcement costs from the federal to the state and local level;
  3. Waste ever greater sums of tax money on ineffective or counter-productive immigration control measures;
  4. Forgo the revenues that could be reaped by a legal, orderly, and fully taxed national immigration policy.

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