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Jewish World Review Feb. 22, 2005 / 13 Adar I, 5765

Joseph Perkins

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Consumer Reports

Taxpayers shouldn't support illegal immigrants -- I don't consider myself a "racist" or a "bigot." But Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee apparently does. I happen to see the merit of a measure, proposed by two Arkansas state lawmakers, that would require anyone registering to vote in the Razorback State to prove citizenship and anyone applying for state services to prove legal residency.

To Huckabee's mind, anyone who supports such a law has succumbed to "race-baiting and demagoguery." That would include yours truly. It also would include a majority of my fellow California residents.

Indeed, in 1994, nearly 60 percent of voters in the Golden State approved a ballot measure that denied state benefits to illegal aliens. Proposition 187 even mustered a third of the state's Latino vote.

Meanwhile, Arizona voters approved a similar measure by a comparable margin of victory last November. And Proposition 200 won the support of roughly 40 percent of the Grand Canyon State's Mexican-American voters. The passage of Propositions 187 and 200 doesn't mean that 60 percent of California and Arizona residents are racists or bigots or xenophobes, as critics of the measures disparage. It means that they believe in the rule of law.

They believe that taxpayer-funded benefits should be reserved for American citizens and for legal residents, and not for those who steal into the country, who thumb their noses at this nation's immigration laws. The irony is that those, like Huckabee, who argue against denying benefits to illegals, are the same folks who argue that illegals come here simply to work, to earn a living here in the Land of Opportunity.

Well, if that is so, why do they need government benefits? It's bad enough that government officials, like Huckabee, knowingly and willingly countenance illegal immigration. It's worse that they also want to reward those who have stolen into the country. They want to give them driver's licenses. They want to give them taxpayer-subsidized college tuition. Heck, in San Francisco, they want to give illegals the right to vote.

Illegal immigrant apologists argue that they are law-abiding folk but for violating this nation's borders, but for breaking this nation's immigration laws.

But that's not entirely the case, as Heather McDonald documented a year ago in an article published in City Journal. In Los Angeles, she found, 95 percent of all outstanding murder warrants involved suspected illegal aliens. And up to two-thirds of all felony warrants were for undocumented illegals.

But illegals do the jobs "Americans won't do," claim their defenders, including Gov. Huckabee and President Bush, both of whom happen to be Republicans.

That's just a myth, as I've noted in previous writings.

The fact is, before the two great waves of illegal immigration in the 1980s and 1990s, there were more than enough Americans performing the low-skilled and semi-skilled work needed by farms and orchards, factories and construction sites, restaurants and hotels, car washes and dry cleaners.

And there still are many lower-skilled Americans available to work for such employers, including the 10 million native-born Americans lacking high school diplomas.

And if that's still not enough low-skilled labor to meet the needs of the nation's industries, they can recruit workers from the legal immigrant population. That includes the more than 5 million legal Mexican immigrants without high school diplomas.

Finally, defenders of illegal immigration say that illegals contribute more in taxes than they receive in benefits.

That's yet another myth. A study by the Center for Immigration Studies, a public policy organization based in Washington, D.C., concluded that, when all taxes are paid and all costs are considered, illegal households cost the federal government a net $10 billion in 2002.

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And when the federal outlay is combined with that of California, Arizona, Arkansas and other states, the total net cost of illegal immigration is more than $20 billion a year.

What really irritates in the debate over illegal immigration is the dishonesty of those who oppose measures like California's Proposition 187, Arizona's Proposition 200 and Arkansas' Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act.

They suggest that those who support such measures are anti-immigrant; that they simply do not like people who are brown-skinned (or black or yellow).

Well, I, for one, am not anti-immigrant. I say come one, come all. Just come legally.

Joseph Perkins is a San Diego Union-Tribune columnist and television commentator. Send your comments to him by clicking here.


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