Charity, Religion, Immigration, and Federalism

The state of Alabama has enacted a new law which would restrict the flow of various benefits to people not legally present in the country. You can read the entire text of the new law here. Alabama’s new law has been called “most draconian anti-immigrant bill in America” by its opponents, and its basic tenor can be readily seen in its section 7(b): “An alien who is not lawfully present in the United States and who is not defined as an alien eligible for public benefits under 8 U.S.C. § 1621(a) or 8 U.S.C. § 1641 shall not receive any state or local public benefits.” And its section 12 includes a provision similar to Arizona’s controversial SB 1070, requiring state law enforcement to refer suspected undocumented aliens to Federal law enforcement.

Which sounds like it’s just another immigration law, and we’ve been over this territory before. And that would be the case, if it weren’t for the religion.

(Cross-posted on the front page; please comment there.)

1. The New Alabama Law

See, HB56’s section 13 has been made the subject of a Free Exercise Clause challenge in court by a group of Christian religious leaders in Alabama. Section 13 seems to be the “anti-coyote” part of the law, aimed at preventing the transportation of undocumented aliens into Alabama. But as written, it also is aimed at other kinds of conduct, and that’s where things get interesting. That portion of the law makes it a crime — a felony if the act involves ten or more people — to do any of the following:

(1) Conceal, harbor, or shield or attempt to conceal, harbor, or shield or conspire to conceal, harbor, or shield an alien from detection in any place in this state, including any building or any means of transportation, if the person knows or recklessly disregards the fact that the alien has come to, has entered, or remains in the United States in violation of federal law.
(2) Encourage or induce an alien to come to or reside in this state if the person knows or recklessly disregards the fact that such coming to, entering, or residing in the United States is or will be in violation of federal law.
(3) Transport, or attempt to transport, or conspire to transport in this state an alien in furtherance of the unlawful presence of the alien in the United States, knowingly, or in reckless disregard of the fact, that the alien has come to, entered, or remained in the United States in violation of federal law. Conspiracy to be so transported shall be a violation of this subdivision.
(4) Harbor an alien unlawfully present in the United States by entering into a rental agreement, as defined by Section 35-9A-141 of the Code of Alabama 1975, with an alien to provide accommodations, if the person knows or recklessly disregards the fact that the alien is unlawfully present in the United States.

The law is already questionable under Federalism grounds. Particularly by making it a violation of state for a private person law to do things that help undocumented aliens, the law appears to be coming close to regulating in the sphere of immigration. Arizona’s law has so far had a mixed result, mostly negative, at the hands of the courts on those grounds (see United States of America v. Arizona (9th Cir. 2010)) and we may need to wait and see if the Supreme Court weighs in. So yes, that’s clearly as much in play in this new Alabama case as it is in the pending Arizona case. LULAC v. Wilson, 908 F. Supp. 755, 768 (C.D. Cal. 1995), still good law, makes the Federalism prospects look grim for Alabama’s new law, in my opinion. I’m sure defenders of Alabama’s law will have a ready explanation for why that conclusion is incorrect. But the fact is, that’s territory that’s been explored before.

2. The Clerical Contentions

The clerics contend that this provision of the law criminalizes their dispensing charity to aliens unlawfully present in the United States, and that they have a duty under the doctrines of their religion (Christianity — the clerics filing the suit are among the state’s leaders in its Episcopal, Roman Catholic, and United Methodist church hierarchies) to dispense such charity to all comers: “If enforced, Alabama’s Anti-Immigration Law will make it a crime to follow God’s command to be Good Samaritans” and would require the churches to ascertain the immigration status of anyone to whom they feel a Christian obligation to offer necessary implements of life such as food, clothing, shelter, and transportation, to those in need.

Presumably, what will happen is that the churches run charities of various kinds. They shelter the homeless, feed the hungry, provide clothing and first aid to the needy, and maybe run a van service to try and find employment or more permanent housing for these people. They help the poor. That’s one of the things churches do. And since they are motivated primarily by their religious beliefs, they believe that they must help everyone, including undocumented aliens.

3. The Lens of the Law

The First Amendment states “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” and the “free exercise” portion of this Amendment was incorporated to the States via the Fourteenth Amendment in the case of Cantwell v. Connecticut (1940) 310 U.S. 296. The state may not compel individuals to do things contrary to their religious beliefs, even for what seem like good reasons. In West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette (1943) 319 U.S. 624, Jehovah’s Witnesses were allowed to exempt themselves from mandatory recitals of the Pledge of Allegiance. (Note that the version of the Pledge applicable at the time did not include the phrase “under God,” although Jehovah’s Witnesses would not normally be expected to rehabilitate the Pledge by including that phrase.)

Laws that restrict religious exercises as practiced, even if the laws are facially neutral, are invalid. For instance, in Schneider v. New Jersey (1939) 308 U.S. 147, an anti-litter ordinance was enforced only against Jehovah’s Witnesses (note that the invalidity was on free speech grounds; the Free Exercise Clause had not yet been incorporated although the Court discussed it in its opinion). See also Wisconsin v. Yoder (1972) 406 U.S. 205, concerning mandatory school attendance for children of Amish parents beyond the eighth grade.

The test for whether a particular law violates the Free Exercise Clause derives from two cases. The first, Sherbert v. Verner (1963) 374 U.S. 398, involved a Seventh-Day Aventist who was denied unemployment benefits because she refused to work on Saturdays. The Sherbert test requires the plaintiff – the person challenging the law – to prove that 1) she has a sincere religious belief, and 2) her ability to act upon that belief is “substantially  burdened” by the law. If she proves this, then the government must prove that 1) it is acting in furtherance of a compelling state interest (the most stringent of all Constitutional tests), and that 2) its actions are narrowly-tailored to advance that interest in the manner least burdensome to the practice of religion.

The two-part burden-shifting test was modified considerably in Employment Division, Department of Human Resources v. Smith (1990) 494 U.S. 872, the now-famous “peyote case.” Alfred Smith took peyote as part of a native American religious ritual, was fired, and applied for unemployment benefits. He was denied because taking peyote was considered “misconduct,” specifically the commission of a crime. Holding that  the Establishment Clause did not require an interpretation of the law in which “each conscience is a law unto itself,” the Court said that a “generally applicable law” may not be ignored under a claim of burden on religious practice.

Congress reacted to Employment Division v. Smith by passing several laws, ultimately the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act in 2000. RLUIPA comes in to play here because the charity the clerics in Alabama propose to dispense to all comers, including undocumented aliens, will likely be dispensed on the premises of their religious establishments or other facilities covered by RLUIPA, and it is easy to see how the substantial weight of Alabama’s law would “affect… commerce with foreign nations [or] among the Several States,” as the law’s apparent effect and apparent intent is to discourage undocumented aliens from coming to Alabama.

RLUIPA’s core is a functional return to the holding in Sherbert, although phrased just a little bit differently:

No government shall impose or implement a land use regulation in a manner that imposes a substantial burden on the religious exercise of a person, including a religious assembly or institution, unless the government can demonstrate that imposition of the burden on that person, assembly or institution a) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and b) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.

42 U.S.C. § 2000cc-5(a). So now we’re left to apply the Sherbert test, as re-interpreted through RLUIPA, to the Alabama law.

4. Is There A Burden On A Religious Practice?

The first question I’ve got is whether the law really forbids the dispensing of charity, even in the expansive but hopefully realistic ways I’ve imagined above. It seems clear enough to me that what the Alabama Legislature was getting at were “coyotes,” people who are paid money to smuggle undocumented workers in to the United States and to line up jobs for them here. The State of Alabama can, with some degree of credibility, declare that it never intended to and would never enforce this law as against a religious institution dispensing charity. Since the law has not yet even taken effect (its effective date is September 1, 2011) there is no experience one way or the other on this subject.

The clerics could respond by pointing out that there is no exception in the law for religious charity so there is no reason they should believe the state authorities when they say that they are really aiming their fire at coyotes. The liveness of the controversy is real, I think; on its face, dispensing charity to anyone regardless of their immigration status (and indeed, with an eye towards aiding the “poorest of the poor” and the “lowest of the low,” which seems pretty consistent with Christian moral ideals to me) could very well be seen as “Encouraging or inducing an alien to come to or reside in [Alabama] in violation of Federal law;” and the church’s failure to report to law enforcement the suspicion that there are people in its homeless shelter that they know (or reasonably ought to have known) were undocumented is also probably fairly understood as “Concealing, harboring, or shielding … an alien from detection in any place in” Alabama.

Is there a Christian obligation to dispense charity? I’m not going to delve into Christian doctrine here, because I know the answer is “yes.”

Does a law that makes it a criminal act to fail to report the illegal immigrant status of a charity dispensee interfere with the giving of that charitable aid? Yes. At least debatably, giving the charity at all is an inducement for them to come to Alabama (“Alabama: come for the soup, stay for the migrant agricultural work!”). Moreover, if word gets out that someone to whom these church-run charities are providing shelter and other charitable support is an undocumented alien, they would be reluctant to report that fact to Alabama or Federal authorities, because they know full well that such a report could result in that person being arrested and deported. By itself, these are bad things. Worse, if word gets out that the church is going to rat you out to La Migra, then people who need this sort of charitable support will not go to the churches to get it. So they may feel an ethical compulsion to not make those reports, and indeed if they come across the information suggesting the undocumented status of their wards while performing a religious activity (e.g., in confession) they may have an obligation within their religious doctrines to hold that information in confidence.

Seems to me that the clerics can make at least a prima facie case that a sincere religious belief (the obligation to dispense charity) is substantially impeded by this law.

5. What Is Alabama’s Compelling Interest?

So, that means that Alabama needs to prove that it has a compelling governmental interest in discouraging this kind of charity, and that this law is the least restrictive available means of achieving that goal. If it cannot, the law will not withstand a Free Exercise/RLUIPA challenge.

The compelling governmental interest prong is actually pretty easy to analyze. Why did the state pass the law? Well, the state tells us. Section 2 of the law sets forth a parade of horribles related to illegal immigration, including economic hardship, lawlessness, adverse effects on public education, loss of security on the borders (presumably this means the national borders), the obstruction of enforcement of Federal law, and unspecified but impermissible restriction on the privileges and immunities of Alabama’s citizens. Thus, the state claims the existence of a “compelling public interest to discourage illegal immigration”.

Surely, somewhere in there, a genuinely compelling state interest can be found. Right?

Well, it isn’t “economic hardship,” that’s for sure. If generalized economic hardship were a compelling public interest, all sorts of awful things could be made legal. Seizure of property without prior due process, a public purpose for the seizure, or just compensation to the former owner could be justified in an attempt to alleviate economic hardship. And the law isn’t really economic regulation in any meanigful sense of the phrase anyway. It changes the way the state does certain kinds of things, related to how state agencies dispense social services and law enforcement, and criminalizes certain activities benefitting a disfavored class of people within Alabama’s borders. Any economic benefit resulting from these things will be indirect at best.

Is the compelling interest the alleviation of “lawlessness”? The state surely has an interest, a deeply fundamental one, in seeing to it that the rule of law prevails. I quite agree, as a general proposition. But we aren’t told explicitly what laws are being violated at present, other than the presence of the undocumented aliens. There is no legislative finding that violent or property crimes have increased as a result of the presence of illegal immigrants purportedly attracted to the wealth of state social services so freely and carelessly dispensed by Alabama. Such a finding, had it been included in the preamble, would have been based more on faith than fact (as would have been a contrary finding, to be intellectually honest). The only law that we can be sure has been broken is the Federal law against non-tourist presence in the United States without appropriate documentation, something we know from the LULAC case is a matter about which the state has no direct interest. Sure, there may be cosmic discontent that the Federal law is not enforced with perfect efficiency. But cosmic discontent is not a sufficient justification for a law under any analysis, much less one that (inadvertently) intrudes on fundamental rights like the free exercise of religion.

This, then dispenses with the concerns about obstruction of Federal law enforcement and border security, as well. Those are federal concerns. To the extent that the law requires state agencies to cooperate with Federal law enforcement and its goals are congruent with existing Federal law, it’s probably innocuous from a federalism perspective; to the extent that the law arrogates to state agencies active participation in Federal law enforcement, it has problems. To the extent that it compels private citizens, under pain of a felony conviction, to report vioaltions of Federal law to state authorities so the state authorities can then arrogate to themselves participation in the enforcement of Federal law, it has a serious problem. Enforcement of the Federal laws is not the state’s business, and therefore these things cannot be true “compelling state interests.”

That leaves us with the degredation of public education. Is a combatting a drain on resources allocated to public education a “compelling state interest”? On this point, I have uncertainty. The state has a strong interest in seeing to it that its money is not wasted. I woudln’t even attempt to argue other than that it has at least a legitimate interest in ensuring that its resources are allocated for the benefit of its own citizens. But is that interest compelling, on the order of saving human life, guaranteeing due process of law to its citizens, or guaranteeing national security? Some might argue that defending against “invaders” is a national security issue and therefore this is a compelling governmental interest. Such an argument loses sight of the ball. The cited interest of the state is avoiding degredation of the quality of public education, not national security. I’m asking if the two are of equivalent importance, and progressives and teachers’ unions would be absolutely thrilled to find that social conservatives arguing that high quality public education is a matter of importance equal to national security, given the legal, constitutional, economic, and intellectual contortions to which social conservatives have gone through in the name of national security over the past decade.

I’m not saying public education isn’t important. It is. But it’s not compelling. At least, I can’t think it is as phrased here. There is no finding of how many undocumented alien children are in Alabama public schools. Some, I’m sure. But are we talking about dozens of kids or tens of thousands? The Legislature doesn’t tell us this, but there are 730,875 students enrolled in Alabama K-12 public schools right now. Tellingly, 15,107 of them are Hispanic. Obviously, one does not need to be Hispanic to be an undocumented alien; nor should we assume that any given Hispanic is an undocumented alien. But come on, now, when we’re talking about “illegal aliens,” we’re talking pretty much completely about people from Mexico (nearly two-thirds of all such people are from Mexico) and Latin America, who are going to be, overwhelmingly, Hispanic. I will propose that it is reasonable to assume that the non-hispanic undocumented alien population of Alabama is so low in number as to be negligible.

The Pew Hispanic Center estimates that the total number of undocumented aliens in Alabama is around 120,000, which would be 2.5% of the state’s total population. Of those 120,000 people, 95,000 are working, presumably illegally or with forged identity documents. It seems safe to assume that if an undocumented alien is working, he or she is not attending a public school as well. (If the person in question is both working and going to school — isn’t that the sort of person whose work ethic means we might want to keep them in our economy? Also incidentally, this means that if you’re undocumented in Alabama, there is a greater than 20% chance you’re unemployed, which is about twice as bad as the unemployment rate for the population at large — a puncture wound to the idea that undocumented aliens are taking jobs away from citizens.)

So the maximum number of people who could be both enrolled in Alabama public schools and undocumented aliens at the same time is 25,000, or about 3.4% of the total student body. But obviously, not every undocumented alien in Alabama solves their unemloyment problem by going to a public school. Some of them are just plain unemployed adults. So if we go with the proportion of the population as a whole, we’d assume that because 2.5% of the total population is undocumented, then 2.5% of the K-12 student body in Alabama is also undocumented. If we assume that every Hispanic in Alabama is undocumented — a decidedly unfair assumption — then we get about 2% of the student body are undocumented.

According to the Census Bureau, there are 185,602 people in Alabama, total, identified as “Hispanic.” How does that number relate to the Pew numbers? Are there really 300,000 Hispanics, of which about 120,000 are undocumented (meaning 40%) or are there really 185,000 of whcih 120,000 are undocumented (meaning about 65%)? It seems unlikely to me that the Census Bureau got a really good tally on undocumented people, and the Pew Center is quite cautious about its estimates. I could be wrong, but an undocumented alien does not strike me as likely to respond to inquiries from Census agents. So I think we’re closer to the 40% than the 65% ratio here. But for purposes of our argument, let’s split the difference equally and suppose that the Census did manage to count them, so we’re at 52.5% of all Hispanics in Alabama’s general population are undocumented, and that means that we can without much further risk assume that 52.5% of Alabama’s Hispanic student population are also undocumented.

If all of that is true, then that means we’re looking at 7,931 undocumented aliens enrolled in Alabama’s public schools, which if you will recall, have a total enrollment of 730,875. That’s just a smidge over 1% of the student body overall.

I cannot find it in me to say that if Alabama were to cut its school rosters by 1%, enough financial and other educational resources would be freed up that anyone would notice even the slightest difference in the quality of primary and secondary education in Alabama’s public schools. Your mileage may vary, but the proposition seems risible to me.

I think the state is going to be challenged to defend any of these things as a compelling state interest, at least discretely. Maybe it could amalgamate them and call the whole soup a compelling interest. Doubtful, but possible, in my estimation. So let’s move on to the last prong of the Sherbert test.

6.Is The Law Narrowly Tailored To Not Interfere With Religion?

This is a real problem for the state, because as the law is currently written, it has to rely on its assurances that a law it has never enforced will not be enforced against religious charities here. And while I do think the subject areas of the law are aimed at coyotes, as written, charities are in the crosshairs of section 13. And it would not have been difficult for the state to have written an exception to the law or an affirmative defense allowing religious charities to dispense at least food, clothing, and shelter in fulfillment of their religious missions. Indeed, the ease of writing religious exceptions to laws is well-known and most recently demonstrated by the religious exception to the same-sex marriage law in New York.

Even if a compelling interest can be articulated, which I submit is not so simple a proposition as the law’s defenders might suggest, the lack of a religious exemption alone skewers the law on the narrow tailoring prong. Fortunately for Alabama, this is actually a pretty easy thing for its Legislature to fix. At least, that’s how I would address this if I were a proponent of this law in the Alabama Legislature — I’d draft a religious-purposes exception and get that whizzed through as soon as possible, and moot the lawsuit.

With that said, I’m not a proponent of the law. I’d have voted against it on the general principle that people who want to work are the kinds of people you want to have, and on the more specific principle that it’s the Federal government’s job and not the state’s to deal with immigration. But I’ve really got to hand it to the clerics and the lawyers who are helping them — this is one of the most creative uses of Constitutional law I’ve heard of in a long time.

Burt Likko

Pseudonymous Portlander. Homebrewer. Atheist. Recovering litigator. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Recovering Former Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. House Likko's Words: Scite Verum. Colite Iusticia. Vivere Con Gaudium.


  1. Which sounds like it’s just another immigration law, and we’ve been over this territory before. And that would be the case, if it weren’t for the religion.
    Initally, the law is not an immigration law, but rather the code for dealing with illegal aliens in the manner the Federal Immigration Law dictates. So.. NOT a law, which is obvious, but an instruction booklet that tells officers how to deal with the massive number of illegal aliens in Alabama. And this reporter, as so many others, simply assumes the Federal Statistics on this issue are correct. They are not, but you need to have done a study on the issue to understand why there are probably three times as many illegal aliens as listed by the Feds.

    Americans, and of all faiths, don’t want religion involved in governmental business. The need to provide charitable relief is extended to illegal aliens and is that where it stops? What about misguided bank robbers, child molestors, violent conduct folks?
    Illegal entry into the United States is a civil offence, but the moment you pick up a fake I.D., you are in another category all together. Then you put a viable Social Security Number on that I.D., and you have another felony. Take it to Montana and use it to get an Apartment, and you have a contract done with all sorts of fake in it, and it is another felony. On, and on, and on.

    As this reporter has pointed out, this IS one of the most creative uses of Constitutional Law seen. The problem is, it is being used by a group of faith based clerics that have moved far, far beyond their pulpits, and are using their positions to interfere in government affairs. We need to remove them from their thoughts that they are ‘faith’ based and above the accusation that they are lobbying, and remove their tax exemption. Yes.. remove their tax exepemption.




      What would you see yourself as if you were looking thru the Eyes of Almighty GOD ?
      How you Treat others is how God TREATS You.
      How you Forgive others is how God FORGIVES You.
      How you See others is how God SEEs You.

      When you show Empathy for the plight of another HUMAN BEING, God takes empathy in YOUR PLIGHT.

      When others slight you and you ignore the call to Vengeance that burns inside, God erases all memory of your failures towards him.


      The way You Judge other HUMANS is HOW GOD Judges You.

      All Humans are EQUAL, ALL Humans are created and are the same in Almighty GODS VISION.

      What You wish for the other is what GOD Gives YOU.

      Happiness keeps You Sweet,
      Trials keep You Strong,
      Sorrows keep You Human,
      Life keeps You Humble,
      Success keeps You Glowing ,
      But Only God keeps You Going.

      Medals and titles will not count when you get to heaven, but you may be looked over carefully for the sort of deeds you have done.

      It is a fundamental principle all religions, that in the afterlife the only real measure of success will be how you have lived your life, not how much money you have accumulated. Whatever your faith may be, a good rule of everyday behavior is to live your life so that when it is over you can take pride in the knowledge that you have made a difference in the lives of those who have known you. It’s easy in the crush of everyday life to lose sight of the true riches of life, the things that really matter. Psychologist Ilona Tobin defines true success as “giving and receiving love, having physical and mental health, enough wealth to provide you with options, and the time to enjoy them all.” Whatever your personal definition of success may be, make sure that it includes a healthy measure of the truly important things in life.

      • Archie Bunker generates tons of links and some of them actually work. Many do not, and in all his efforts on this issue, he still cannot deal with two solid clear point.

        1. Amnesty is extremely expensive and we are talking about trillions of dollars.
        2. A huge majority of the American People do NOT want the illegal aliens accepted in this country. FairUS has a section that is well worth reading.

        Immigration Issues
        This section provides links to Immigration Briefs — short descriptions of issues — as well as to our publications that describe issues in depth. The Immigration Briefs provide links to related publications.

        Above all other things he does, he keeps telling the people who want the law enforce they are ignorant and hate. No thanks.. just enforce the law.


    Read this whos to blame for our economy, its NOT the POOR MIGRANTS.
    300 BILLION$$ are not paid in taxes by USA CITIZENS, WHO CHEAT ON their TAXES that’s A TRILLION$$ EVERY 3.3YEARS.

    Before you Scream and show Ignorance and Hate at least read the Immigration Law regarding Undocumented Immigrants.


    The whole thing is perplexing to people who don’t understand that being an illegal immigrant in and of itself is not a crime. The most pervasive comments made in news stories about Secure Communities go a little like this: “Illegal immigrants are what they’re called — they’re considered criminals by mere definition. Illegals who broke a bunch of laws to enter and live here should be subjected to immediate arrest and deportation — that’s fair for everyone.”

    That’s not accurate, but a lot of people have that same misunderstanding — even law enforcement professionals.

    During a teleconference last month on the troubles that Secure Communities is bringing to local law enforcement agencies, a few sheriffs on the call commiserated about their misunderstanding of immigration violations.

    “I was always told it was a felony federal violation of law and was always under the impression that turning over any illegal immigrants (to ICE) was mandated by federal law — and so did my employees,” said Sheriff Ed Prieto of Yolo County, Calif. “But after we met with the Mexican consulate in Sacramento we learned it’s not. Then I started looking into how many of our people are being deported before trial and I became very uncomfortable contacting ICE for nonviolent offenders.”

    Kane County, Ill., Sheriff Patrick Perez said that “90 percent of law enforcement officers believe (just being an illegal immigrant) is a crime, but I learned after talking to an immigration judge that it is just a civil offense.”

    Sara Dill, a member of the American Bar Association’s Commission on Immigration and a member of the ABA’s Criminal Justice Council, explained it to me this way: “States are seeking to criminalize what is only a civil violation in federal law.” Dill said that failing to get a permit for home construction is one example of a civil, not criminal, violation. “Putting illegal immigrants in a criminal context confuses merely being present in the United States without authorization with crimes such as falsely claiming citizenship or identity theft, which are crimes under federal law.”

    Everyone knows that of the universe of illegal immigrants, some have committed nonviolent and violent crimes — and everyone believes these should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

    But believers of following “the letter of the law” cannot continue equating all illegal immigrants living in this country with criminals, who have plenty of civil rights of their own. That’s not the American way.


    Immigration reform would generate $4.5 to $5.4 billion in additional net tax revenue over three years,” the letter says. “The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office scored the bi-partisan 2007 comprehensive immigration reform bill that was proposed in the Senate as increasing federal revenues by $15 billion over the 2008-2012 period and by $48 billion over the 2008-2017 period.”

    Studies from groups across the political spectrum have proven the economic and fiscal benefits of comprehensive immigration reform. By requiring illegal immigrants to register with the government, pay fees and back taxes, and correct their status, we can drastically expand our tax base. A report by the Center for American Progress found that passing comprehensive immigration reform would generate $4.5 to $5.4 billion in additional net tax revenue over three years. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office scored the bi-partisan 2007 comprehensive immigration reform bill that was proposed in the Senate as increasing federal revenues by $15 billion over the 2008-2012 period and by $48 billion over the 2008-2017 period.

    In addition to expanding our tax base, economists have proven that comprehensive immigration reform would also increase wages for native workers, thereby boosting tax revenues generated by all workers. The CATO Institute found that forcing undocumented immigrants to get right with the law by registering with the government would boost the incomes of U.S. households by $180 billion in 2019, which would also lead to increased government revenues, without increasing tax rates.

    Just like our budget deficit, immigration reform is an issue that we cannot afford to ignore. Bipartisan proposals that are tough, fair, and practical have garnered support from across the ideological spectrum in Congress, as well as from President Bush and the current administration. Comprehensive immigration reform would clearly help us reduce our deficit and debt, and would do so without raising tax rates.


    Q: “Is it true that illegal immigrants don’t pay taxes and drain our economy?”
    A: As Ben Franklin said, “Nothing is certain but death and taxes.” Like the rest of us, unauthorized immigrants pay taxes on their property and anything they buy. More than half of them have taxes taken out of their paychecks, but because our immigration system is dysfunctional, these taxes are paid under false Social Security numbers. We need a new regimen in which we know who is paying taxes and can ensure that no one is getting a free ride. The only way to do that is to pull unauthorized immigrants out of the shadows and get them on the right side of the law.
    Three state-level studies have found that unauthorized immigrants pay more in taxes than they use in benefits. In Iowa, unauthorized immigrants pay an estimated $40 to $62 million in state taxes, while they and their employers contribute an additional $50 million to $77.8 million in federal, Social Security, and Medicare taxes from which they will never benefit. In Oregon, unauthorized immigrants—who are not eligible for any state benefits—pay between $134 million and $187 million in taxes each year. Finally, in Texas, the State Comptroller found that, without unauthorized residents, the gross state product in 2005 would have been $17.7 billion less.

    THE BOTTOM LINE: Undocumented immigrants are an important component of the U.S. economy. They meet the labor demand in sectors in which they do not directly compete with U.S.-born workers. The great majority of migrant workers are taxpaying, hardworking, and law-abiding people who are integrating into U.S. society.

    The economics of immigration, Stephen C. Goss, the chief actuary of the Social Security Administration and someone who enjoys bipartisan support for his straightforwardness, said that by 2007, the Social Security trust fund had received a net benefit of somewhere between $120 billion and $240 billion from unauthorized immigrants.
    That represented an astounding 5.4 percent to 10.7 percent of the trust fund’s total assets of $2.24 trillion that year. The cumulative contribution is surely higher now. Unauthorized immigrants paid a net contribution of $12 billion in 2007 alone, Goss said.

    Previous estimates circulating publicly and in Congress had placed the annual contributions at roughly half of Goss’s 2007 figure and listed the cumulative benefit on the order of $50 billion.

    The Social Security trust fund faces a solvency crisis that would be even more pressing were it not for these payments.
    Adding to the Social Security irony is that the restrictionists are mostly OLDER AND RETIRED WHITES from longtime American families. The very people, in other words, who benefit most from the Social Security payments by unauthorized immigrants.

    Comprehensive Immigration Reform Would Boost the Economy & Help ALL American Workers: As opposed to the mass deportation, enforcement-only approach, addressing and fixing the immigration system in a wholesale manner will be a boon to the U.S. economy and all U.S. workers. That is why both the AFL-CIO and Change to Win created The Labor Movement’s Joint Framework for Comprehensive Immigration Reform. Dr. Raúl Hinojosa-Ojeda conducted a 2010 report for the Center for American Progress and the Immigration Policy Center that found that “Unlike the current enforcement-only strategy, comprehensive reform would raise the ‘wage floor’ for the entire U.S. economy—to the benefit of both immigrant and native-born workers.” According to the study, granting legal status to undocumented immigrants and creating flexible legal limits on future immigration flows would generate enough consumer-spending to support 750,000-900,000 jobs. The report also found that the mass deportation approach would reduce GDP by 1.46 percent annually, amounting to a loss of $2.6 trillion over 10 years.

    • Because I don’t think they they apply to what I’m talking about here. Tell me why I’m wrong.

    • Prop 187 was similar to, but not quite as ambitious, as this. The laws similarly withhold public welfare and public education from undocumented aliens. But to my knowledge, the private-persons-must-report part of this law is farther-reaching even than Arizona’s SB 1070.

  4. Excellent reading on this issue.

    The various religious organization can continue to do good Samaritan work as they choose. I can assure everyone who reads this article that there are so many people in this country, and who are citizens of this country, that need them, that there is not time, or reason to move to an area that is… illegal.

  5. Burt – what is it about your posts that brings in the drive-by commenters continuing arguments that they seem to have had on other sites? I’m suddenly having flashbacks to your Amanda Knox thread.

    • {Recalls Amanda Knox thread, shudders.} Maybe I’m on some random twitter feeds? Just a guess.

  6. Break down of revenue to support illegal migrants and illegal immigrants.
    Federal Expenditures on Illegal Aliens

    Education Title 1 program $1,332,900,000
    Migrant education program $236,900,000
    Title 111 program $538,000,000

    Education Subtotal $2,107,800,000

    Medical Emergency medical care $250,000,000
    Fraudulent use of Medicaid $1,235,000,000
    Medicaid cost of childbirth $1,238,100,000
    Medicaid for children $1,626,800,000
    other medical outlays $1,600,000,000

    Medical Subtotal $5,949,900,000

    Law enforcement Scaap compensation $330,000,000
    Federal incarceration $678,400,000
    Byrne grants $24,300,000
    Detention and removal $2,545,000,000
    Project safe neighborhoods $39,500,000
    Residual ice functions $2,824,000,000
    Exec. Office of immigration review $222,500,000
    Southwest border prosecution $33,000,000
    National Guard $642,000,000
    Coast Guard $500,000,000

    Law Enforcement Subtotal $7,838,700,000

    Public assistance Free and reduced meal program $2,264,600,000
    Temporary assist. Needy families $1,030,000,000
    Housing assistance programs $637,000,000
    Child care & development fund $633,000,000
    Public Assistance Subtotal $4,564,600,000

    General expenditures $8,184,400,000


    State/Local Expenditures on Illegal Aliens ($ M)

    Alabama $298 Illinois $4B,592 Montana $32 Rhode Island $278
    Alaska $139 Indiana $608 Nebraska $262 S. Carolina $391
    Arizona $2B,569 Iowa $350 Nevada $1B,191 S. Dakota $33
    Arkansas $244 Kansas $442 New Hampshire $123 Tennessee $547
    California $21B,756 Kentucky $280 New Jersey $3B,478 Texas $8B,878
    Colorado $1B,451 Louisiana $224 New Mexico $608 Utah $453
    Connecticut $957 Maine $41 New York $9B,479 Vermont $38
    Wash D.C. $312 Maryland $1B,724 N. Carolina $2B,063 Virginia $1B,905
    Delaware $305 Massachusetts. $1B, 862 N. Dakota $32
    Washington State $1B, 510; Florida $5B,463 Michigan $929,
    Ohio $563 W. Virginia. $31; Georgia $2B; 399 Minnesota,
    $744 Oklahoma $465 Wisconsin $883.Hawaii $155 Mississippi.
    $106 Oregon $705 Wyoming $51, Idaho $188 Missouri $338,
    Penn. $1B,378



    Category federal State/local

    Income -$2,302,800,000 $244,200,000
    Social security $7,000,000,000
    Medicare tax $1,637,100,000
    Excise and miscellaneous $2,489,700,000
    Employer (FUTA & income) $632,600,000
    Property tax $1,378,000,000
    Sales tax $2,333,000,000


    NOW CALCULATE THIS! TAKE $ FROM $ = ( $110.061.400.000 )


    • Got a source for any of that? And what’s the import or context of these numbers?

      Oh, one more thing. Right there next to your left pinky finger is this key with the cryptic letters “CAPS LOCK” on it. Do be careful how you use that one. Cheers.

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