The BorderLine is a weekly Daily Signal feature examining everything from the unprecedented illegal immigration crisis at the border to immigration’s impact on cities and states throughout the land. We will also shed light on other critical border-related issues like human trafficking, drug smuggling, terrorism, and more.
“There’s no such thing as a free lunch” used to be American folk wisdom (and inspired a book by economist Milton Friedman). The greatest trick the American Left has played on young people is to convince them that free stuff is actually free. In fact, tax credits, student debt “relief,” COVID-19 stimulus, rent control, and other giveaways simply redistribute existing wealth or borrow money that must be repaid by taxpayers.
Relative to illegal immigration, it doesn’t matter how much you put aside for a rainy day if the rain never stops. Biden’s policies have locked in an unlimited flow of illegal immigration at the border. Many of those coming now have no U.S. relatives or employment waiting for them. They will continue to head for “sanctuary” megacities that offer free housing and benefits. Local authorities there seem to only now begin to understand the scale of demand with which they are dealing. Our open borders have resulted in housing shortages, closed schools, commandeered public spaces, and hospitals catering to patients no one voted to admit into the country while everyday taxpaying Americans wait in line.
It’s not as if all Americans are rich and can absorb the costs of paying for these people who aren’t paying for themselves—particularly in the places where illegal aliens are amassing.
At James Madison High School, which New York City closed down to house illegal immigrants for a few days due to bad weather, “73% of students are economically disadvantaged.” And as schools in New York and across the country absorb thousands more “limited English proficiency” students, they must hire more specialist teachers at additional cost.
Only a few months ago, New York Mayor Eric Adams was talking about a mere $4 billion to cope with illegal immigrants over the next couple years. Now, he says it will be more like $10 billion. Gov. Kathy Hochul included $2.4 billion in the state budget to help, but it will never be enough.
In announcing her budget, Hochul said she would focus on “fighting crime, fixing our mental health system, and protecting New Yorkers’ hard-earned money.” And yet, she plans to spend as much on supporting illegal immigrants as on mental health programs for the entire state.
Already, 39% of New York state’s population is eligible for Medicaid, which is jointly funded by the state and the federal government. The state also offers free or subsidized health care to some illegal immigrants, and starting this year, will allow those who are older than 65 to enroll in Medicaid. Far from “protecting” her taxpayers’ hard-earned money, Hochul seems to be locking them into rising costs.
The city of Philadelphia is best known as the place the Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776. Today, its Kensington neighborhood was described by a French news site as “devastated by opioids.” Philly is also known for notoriously bad public schools and far-left activism.
Continuing its activism trend, the city council just voted to end “medical deportations,” banning hospitals from sending illegal immigrants to their home countries “without consent, consideration of health insurance eligibility, or consideration of health risks to the patient.” What does this mean for residents? If they pay health insurance premiums, they may pay more. If they rely on various free government programs, they will wait longer in line for services, as illegal aliens often consume them first and for free.
According to local public radio station WHYY, “Hospitals will have clearly defined guidelines to prevent deportation and ensure immigrant patients and their families are informed of all possible choices.” One of those choices is to remain in the U.S., regardless of their ability to pay, and even if there is free health care available in their home country.
“Advocates,” WHYY tells us, believe that illegal immigrants “deserve … basic human rights, which includes long-term health care.” Unilaterally declaring that health care is a “basic human right” is a breathtaking arrogation of other people’s money that the city of Philadelphia, states like Illinois and California, and the federal government will come to regret. Without a dedicated revenue source to pay for it and some kind of limit on new entrants, programs promising universal, lifetime, free care will slowly become bad checks that can’t be cashed.
Health care for American citizens and legal residents will become collateral damage. As a consular officer in Ghana 20 years ago, I received a visa application from a man who had returned home for a funeral and wanted to go back to New York, where he had lived illegally for many years. While evaluating his case, I discovered that he had received over a million dollars in free health care from the city and state of New York—after arriving on a tourist visa. Of course, he wanted to go back, but allowing unlimited access to our expensive health care system to people who did not pay into it doesn’t add up.
In Brunswick, Maine, the state government is renting 60 apartments for two years to house illegal aliens while they await immigration court decisions, which will take a lot longer than that—should they even bother to apply for asylum or fight the deportation process into which the Department of Homeland Security placed them when they were released after illegally entering the country.
The director of the state’s subsidized housing program said “We have thousands of folks coming … who want to make Maine home. We’re doing everything we can to help that situation.” He has no idea of the worldwide demand for free housing, even in frosty Maine.
Meanwhile in Illinois, Gov. J.B. Pritzker wrote to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to “plead for mercy” and ask that illegal aliens not be bused to Chicago during storms because of lack of shelters to put them in. “While action is pending at the federal level,” he wrote, “please … do not send more people to our state.”
Pritzker’s claim that “action is pending at the federal level” is a stretch. Serious immigration reform hasn’t been legislated since 1996. If Abbott took the bait and suspended busing illegal aliens to Illinois until Washington produced a consensus, he might wait forever.
Education, housing, and health care cost money. Every service has a price, and there’s no such thing as a free lunch.
Read Other BorderLine Columns:
Have an opinion about this article? To sound off, please email letters@DailySignal.com, and we’ll consider publishing your edited remarks in our regular “We Hear You” feature. Remember to include the URL or headline of the article plus your name and town and/or state.