Mississippi and Illegal Immigration

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Even though events in the Middle East and in Ferguson have knocked the immigration debate off the front pages, it is no less important for the nation and the state of Mississippi.

In recent months, the surge of illegal immigrants crossing our southern border has reached a crisis level, as a flood of aliens pour into Texas. By most estimates, roughly 60,000 illegals, mostly from Central America, have arrived on our soil since last October, with another 150,000 expected over the next year.

The media has been all too willing to carry the Obama narrative that these are small children clutching teddy bears that were sent to America at the behest of their parents to get away from the violence and turmoil in that part of the world, all in the hopes of living a better life. The expectation of fair treatment after the perilous journey was made possible because of a 2008 law, designed to stop the sex trafficking of children, that allows kids from Central America additional legal protections not otherwise granted to Canadians and Mexicans, who, when caught, can be sent back home promptly. But most of these “children,” some 91 percent, are in fact teenagers, and many are nearly at the age of adulthood.

Officials in Texas estimate that as many as 300,000 have slipped past border patrol agents and entered the country undetected, with at least 100,000 being members of the Salvadorian gang MS-13, one of the most violent on Earth.

Of those Central Americans already in the country, the situation is not a good one. They are not the “best and brightest” that the President claims they are. Sixty percent are illegal. More than half receive at least one major form of welfare assistance. Ninety percent speak English very poorly, if at all, while more than 50 percent have not graduated from high school. They can only take the low-wage jobs of Americans lucky enough to have one, mainly blacks and Hispanics in the inner cities.

While it may seem that Mississippi is relatively unaffected by the crisis, and has not experienced the level of difficulties seen in the Border States, we still have our share of problems associated with illegal immigration, namely the costs involved in dealing with them on a day-to-day basis.

A decade ago, the state auditor’s office, then led by Phil Bryant, issued a report on the economic effects of the state’s illegal immigrant population, touching everything from schools and healthcare to law enforcement and incarceration. That year illegals cost Mississippi taxpayers $23.7 million in K-12 education alone, a figure seen by Bryant as having a “significant impact” on the state’s budget. Healthcare costs were $35 million. In 2010, illegal immigrants cost the state’s taxpayers an estimated $106 million, with $70.3 million allocated to educating the children of illegal parents. These costs will only increase as the illegal population increases.

Yet these numbers do not factor in costs of higher taxes and fees related to federal expenditures, nor the indirect costs related to illegal immigrants who reside in Mississippi. Lost jobs and depressed wages are equally devastating to working families.

During this present border crisis, at least as far as we know, the federal government has shipped 179 illegal children to Mississippi and, as with other states, without notifying anyone in Jackson. They have already been processed and turned over to sponsor families. No one knows who they are or where they went, or how many more may be arriving in the future, or may have already arrived. Stories of illegals popping up in small towns and gaining employment are making the rounds on social networking sites.

While President Obama and the Democrats in Congress, with the aid of their media allies, seek a blanket grant of amnesty, or at least an authorization for work permits for the new arrivals, an action that would only guarantee a new wave of asylum seekers, the Republican leadership in Congress has remained virtually silent, as have many of Mississippi’s own elected representatives.

Before taking their August recess, the US Senate voted to move a Harry Reid-sponsored immigration bill forward by a vote of 63-33. The bill would allocate $2.7 billion for the border crisis, much of which is not related to security or deportation, but would appropriate hundreds of millions to house and care for those who have arrived, and on other projects not related to immigration.

Senator Thad Cochran remained in Mississippi to campaign rather than use his much-touted leadership to stop what true conservatives in the Senate see as a very bad bill.

As President Obama winds down his yearly lavish vacation on Martha’s Vineyard, Washington, and much of the nation, is bracing for what could be another illegal act. Will it be full amnesty? Or work permits? Or anything at all? We shall all see soon. And what will Republicans do if Obama acts unilaterally? Some talk impeachment, while others say nothing at all. But they must take some action is Obama so callously violates the law and the Constitution.

As a state senator, Chris McDaniel led the fight against illegal immigration in Mississippi, despite efforts by some to block the reforms. In seven years in Jackson, he authored bills that would assist law enforcement in identifying those who are in the state illegally, prevent Mississippi from becoming a “sanctuary state,” and stop illegal immigrants from receiving public benefits. He has done far more to reform the issue in Mississippi than has Thad Cochran in Washington.

As more and more Americans are coming to realize, this is a fight we can and must win. But it can only be successful if we have the political will and the leadership in Washington, and in our state capitols, to do so. If we don’t, we risk becoming, as Teddy Roosevelt warned, not a tight-nit nation of citizens, but mere “dwellers in a polyglot boarding house.” The future of our republic and our people are worth more than that.

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