Former Time Columnist: Illegal Immigrants Should Get Bonuses Not Fines

Over the years, former Time columnist Barbara Ehrenreich has made some truly preposterous assertions in her many books and articles.

However, this piece might go down as her most insipid.

Writing for The Nation on June 12, the mother of Los Angeles Times columnist Rosa Brooks stated the following (h/t NBer misterbill, emphasis added throughout):

Undocumented workers shouldn't be fined; they should get a hefty bonus!

Want to check that link to make sure I’m not lying? Go ahead. While you’re doing that, be advised – Barbara wasn’t done:

The only question is how much we owe our undocumented immigrant workers. First, those who do not remain to enjoy the benefits of old age in America will have to be reimbursed for their contributions to Medicare and Social Security, and here I quote the website of the San Diego ACLU:

Undocumented immigrants annually pay an estimated $7 billion more than they take out into Social Security, and $1.5 billion more into Medicare.... A study by the National Academy of Sciences also found that tax payments generated by immigrants outweighed any costs associated with services used by immigrants.

Ah. Dontcha love it when liberals quote the ACLU on fiscal issues? Just imagine what kind of math was employed to come up with those numbers. After all, we have seen over the years that one plus one in liberal arithmetic sometimes equals zero, one, two, or three depending on the agenda being advanced.

For instance, Investor’s Business Daily, a source most Americans feel much more comfortable depending on for financial information than the ACLU, reported the following on March 22, 2005 (emphasis added):

[Illegal immigrants] are 50% more likely to be on welfare than citizens. As they age, their burden will only grow.

The exact cost of all this is open to debate. One recent estimate by the Center for Immigration Studies put total federal costs in 2002 at $10 billion a year.

A study in 1996 by Rice University economist Donald Huddle estimated federal, state and local costs at $24 billion. With the illegal population having doubled since then, no doubt those costs for all levels of government have soared.


The costs are felt elsewhere, too.

For instance, more than half of California's hospitals and 82% of its emergency rooms operated in the red in 2002. A big reason for that -- and for a wave of hospital closures in the state -- is that California hospitals absorb nearly $4 billion a year to care for those without insurance -- mainly of them illegal.

Alas, Barbara didn’t include these numbers in her calculus as she made her case about how much of a bonus illegal immigrants are entitled to:

Second, someone is going to have to calculate what is owed to "illegals" for wages withheld by unscrupulous employers: The homeowner who tells his or her domestic worker that the wage is actually several hundred dollars a month less than she had been promised, and that the homeowner will be "holding" it for her. Or the landscaping service that stiffs its undocumented workers for their labor. Who's the "illegal" here?

Third, there's the massive compensation owed to undocumented immigrants for preventable injuries on the job. In her book Suburban Sweatshops: The Fight for Immigrant Rights, Jennifer Gordon reports such gruesome cases as a Honduran who died from inhaling paint while sanding yachts in Long Island and a Guatemalan worker whose boss intentionally burned him with hot pans of oil for not washing dishes fast enough. "Death rates for Latino workers," Gordon reports, "have risen over the past decade even as workplace fatality rates for non-Latinos have fallen."

In the end, Barbara came up with a number that she felt comfortable having legal residents of this nation fork over to illegal ones:

When our debt to America's undocumented workers is eventually tallied, I'm confident that it will be well in excess of the $5000 fine the immigration bill proposes. There is still the issue of the original "crime." If someone breaks into my property for the purpose of trashing and looting, I would be hell-bent on restitution. But if they break in for the purpose of cleaning it--scrubbing the bathroom, mowing the lawn--then, in my way of thinking anyway, the debt goes in the other direction.

But Barbara, aren’t you forgetting how many of these folks are indeed trying to break into your home for purposes other than cleaning it? From the aforementioned IBD article:

The U.S. Justice Department estimated that 270,000 illegal immigrants served jail time nationally in 2003. Of those, 108,000 were in California. Some estimates show illegals now make up half of California's prison population, creating a massive criminal subculture that strains state budgets and creates a nightmare for local police forces.

Want to give these folks a bonus, too, Barbara?

Congress Immigration Culture/Society
Noel Sheppard's picture