Immigration and Intergovernmental Relations: How Immigration is Redrawing the Lines of Federalism


In May 2007, Encarnacion Bail Romero, mother of Carlitos Romero, and an undocumented worker in Missouri, was arrested at a poultry plant by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents during an immigration raid (Gigler, Ross, & Hill, 2012).   While Romero was incarcerated for an immigration-related law that the Supreme Court later struck down as unconstitutional, the State of Missouri terminated Romero’s parental rights and granted the adoption of Carlitos to a Missouri couple (Cambria, 2012).  After Romero exhausted all legal options, the adoption was upheld by a Missouri Juvenile Court (Ross & Hill, 2012).  Romero’s case is not an isolated incident, as Wessler (2011) found that more than 46,000 parents of U.S. citizen children were removed from their children in the first half of 2011, and at least 5,100 children of detained or deported undocumented immigrants are in U.S. foster care.  These types of cases highlight the complexity of intergovernmental relations in a federalist system, existing precisely because of the gaps between the patchwork of federal, state, and local immigration laws and policies.  Immigration policy gaps exist because federal, state, and local policymakers disagree over both the aims and means of immigration policy and because federal policy consequences are borne by state and local governments in the form of an unfunded mandate, giving rise to immigrant federalism caused by active state and local governments seeking to create change.

Hoefer, Rytina, and Baker (2012) estimate that there are 11.5 million unauthorized immigrants living in the United States, the majority of which are from Mexico and Central America.  Extreme estimates by conservative, anti-immigration think tank FAIR, suggest that undocumented immigrants cost $113 billion annually, 76% of which is borne by state and local governments (Martin & Ruark, 2010).  Although, the Congressional Budget Office (2007) found that while the costs to state and local governments exceeded the revenues from undocumented immigrations, the budgetary impact was modest.  Furthermore, and Shafritz, Russell, and Borick (2011) and Hanson (2007) both recognize that undocumented immigrants are positive for the U.S. economy.  Why then are state and local governments more active in the legislation and regulation of immigration?

While the lack of reliable statistics give fuel to differing partisan perspectives on the immigration debate, the unequal budgetary burden placed on state and local governments make illegal immigration “the mother of all unfunded mandates” (Shafritz, et al., 2011, p. 164).  It is therefore, little surprise, given both the economic burden and a lack of clear direction from the federal government, that state and local governments are seeking a rearrangement of immigrant federalism (Huntington, 2008).  In fact, Huntington (2008) argues that the immigration debate should be considered through a lens of federalism to determine proper allocation of power between the various levels of government, rather than having the federal government preempt all immigration law and policy decisions.  Huntington’s (2008) perspective echoes the notion of incremental decision making inherent in a federal system that Shafritz, et al. (2011) consider “integral to democracy” (p. 140).  Indeed, the tendency towards incrementalism may be one of key reasons for lack of clear immigration policy from the federal government.

Shafritz, et al. (2011) note that in 2007, “at least 1,100 immigration bills were submitted by state lawmakers” (p. 164).   Some of the new legislation is aimed at making illegal immigration less favorable in the jurisdictions of local lawmakers, while other localities enact legislation to make illegal immigration more favorable (Huntington, 2008).  Where some lawmakers are seeking to discourage illegal immigration to reduce the economic consequences of the unfunded mandate, others are seeking to encourage immigration in order to grow their local economies.  There are also some who consider anti-immigration a thinly, veiled attempt to advance a nativist and ultimately racist agenda (Zeskind, 2005).  Indeed, history would suggest that immigration policy has it roots in a discriminatory agenda (U.S. Commission On Civil Rights, 1980).  It is clear that differing policy actors have conflicting views on the aims of U.S. immigration policy, and likely the means.  It is equally clear that the federal government must consider the various policy aims of constituent governments, while also assuring the needs and interests of minority or weaker groups are protected.   It appears to this author that the federalist system of government is both the cause of the slow progress in immigration reform, and responsible for the benefits of the existing immigration policy to various constituents.

Despite the history of incrementalism inherent in a federalist system, the immigration debate has started a new chapter in what appears to be a continual redefinition of federalism to determine where legislative and administrative power resides in immigration policy.  As federal immigration policy consequences are largely borne by state and local governments, the last decade has seen the rise of immigrant federalism creating a patchwork of federal, state, and local immigration laws that clearly disagree over both the aims and means of national immigration policy.   While the immigration federalism policy debate appears far from over, the urgency to improve immigration policy is clear, because existing policy allows the U.S. citizen children to be involuntarily taken from their undocumented immigrant parents, a situation that should never occur in a country built on the principles of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

References

Cambria, N. (2012, July 19, 2012). Judge gives Missouri couple custody of illegal immigrant’s child  Retrieved August 4,, 2012, from http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/judge-gives-missouri-couple-custody-of-illegal-immigrant-s-child/article_8d7ca32d-94e9-54f4-91a8-7512476da753.html

Congressional Budget Office. (2007). The Impact of Unauthorized Immigrants on the Budgets of State and Local Governments.  Washington DC: U.S. Congress: Congressional Budget Office Retrieved from http://www.cbo.gov/sites/default/files/cbofiles/ftpdocs/87xx/doc8711/12-6-immigration.pdf.

Gigler, L., Ross, B., & Hill, A. M. (2012, February 1, 2012). Adoption Battle Over 5-Year Old Boy Pits Missouri Couple Vs. Illegal Immigrant  Retrieved August 4, 2012, from http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/adoption-battle-year-boy-pits-missouri-couple-illegal/story?id=15484447 – .UB1uVI6_FLo

Hanson, G. H. (2007). The economic logic of illegal immigration. Council on Foreign Relations, 26(April 2007), 1-52.

Hoefer, M., Rytina, N., & Baker, B. (2012). Estimates of the Unauthorized Immigrant Population Residing in the United States: January 2011.  Washington, DC: Department of Homeland Security Retrieved from http://www.dhs.gov/xlibrary/assets/statistics/publications/ois_ill_pe_2011.pdf.

Huntington, C. (2008). The consistutional dimension of immigration federalism. Vanderbilt Law Review, 61(3), 787-853.

Martin, J., & Ruark, E. (2010). The fiscal burden of illegal immigration on United States taxpayers (pp. 1-95). Washington DC: Federation for American Immigration Reform.

Ross, B., & Hill, A. M. (2012, July 18, 2012). Tug-of-Love: Immigrant Mom Loses Effort to Regain Son Given to US Parents  Retrieved August 4, 2012, from http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/immigrant-mom-loses-effort-regain-son-us-parents/story?id=16803067 – .UB1t-o6_FLo

Shafritz, J. M., Russell, E. W., & Borick, C. P. (2011). Introducing public administration (7th ed.). Boston: Longman.

U.S. Commission On Civil Rights. (1980). Historical dimiscrimination in the immigration laws. In R. Fiske-Rusciano (Ed.), Experiencing race, class, and gender in the United States (5th ed.). Boston, Mass.: McGraw-Hill Higher Education.

Wessler, S. F. (2011). Shatter Families: The Perilous intersection of immigration Enforcement and the Child Welfare System: Executive Summary (pp. 1-10). New York, New York: Applied Research Center.

Zeskind, L. (2005, October 23, 2005). The new nativism. The American Prospect  Retrieved August 10, 2011, from http://prospect.org/cs/articles?articleId=10485

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Immigration and Intergovernmental Relations: How Immigration is Redrawing the Lines of Federalism


 In May 2007, Encarnacion Bail Romero, mother of Carlitos Romero, and an undocumented worker in Missouri, was arrested at a poultry plant by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents during an immigration raid (Gigler, Ross, & Hill, 2012).   While Romero was incarcerated for an immigration-related law that the Supreme Court later struck down as unconstitutional, the State of Missouri terminated Romero’s parental rights and granted the adoption of Carlitos to a Missouri couple (Cambria, 2012).  After Romero exhausted all legal options, the adoption was upheld by a Missouri Juvenile Court (Ross & Hill, 2012).  Romero’s case is not an isolated incident, as Wessler (2011) found that more than 46,000 parents of U.S. citizen children were removed from their children in the first half of 2011, and at least 5,100 children of detained or deported undocumented immigrants are in U.S. foster care.  These types of cases highlight the complexity of intergovernmental relations in a federalist system, existing precisely because of the gaps between the patchwork of federal, state, and local immigration laws and policies.  Immigration policy gaps exist because federal, state, and local policymakers disagree over both the aims and means of immigration policy and because federal policy consequences are borne by state and local governments in the form of an unfunded mandate, giving rise to immigrant federalism caused by active state and local governments seeking to create change.

Hoefer, Rytina, and Baker (2012) estimate that there are 11.5 million unauthorized immigrants living in the United States, the majority of which are from Mexico and Central America.  Extreme estimates by conservative, anti-immigration think tank FAIR, suggest that undocumented immigrants cost $113 billion annually, 76% of which is borne by state and local governments (Martin & Ruark, 2010).  Although, the Congressional Budget Office (2007) found that while the costs to state and local governments exceeded the revenues from undocumented immigrations, the budgetary impact was modest.  Furthermore, and Shafritz, Russell, and Borick (2011) and Hanson (2007) both recognize that undocumented immigrants are positive for the U.S. economy.  Why then are state and local governments more active in the legislation and regulation of immigration?

While the lack of reliable statistics give fuel to differing partisan perspectives on the immigration debate, the unequal budgetary burden placed on state and local governments make illegal immigration “the mother of all unfunded mandates” (Shafritz, et al., 2011, p. 164).  It is therefore, little surprise, given both the economic burden and a lack of clear direction from the federal government, that state and local governments are seeking a rearrangement of immigrant federalism (Huntington, 2008).  In fact, Huntington (2008) argues that the immigration debate should be considered through a lens of federalism to determine proper allocation of power between the various levels of government, rather than having the federal government preempt all immigration law and policy decisions.  Huntington’s (2008) perspective echoes the notion of incremental decision making inherent in a federal system that Shafritz, et al. (2011) consider “integral to democracy” (p. 140).  Indeed, the tendency towards incrementalism may be one of key reasons for lack of clear immigration policy from the federal government.

Shafritz, et al. (2011) note that in 2007, “at least 1,100 immigration bills were submitted by state lawmakers” (p. 164).   Some of the new legislation is aimed at making illegal immigration less favorable in the jurisdictions of local lawmakers, while other localities enact legislation to make illegal immigration more favorable (Huntington, 2008).  Where some lawmakers are seeking to discourage illegal immigration to reduce the economic consequences of the unfunded mandate, others are seeking to encourage immigration in order to grow their local economies.  There are also some who consider anti-immigration a thinly, veiled attempt to advance a nativist and ultimately racist agenda (Zeskind, 2005).  Indeed, history would suggest that immigration policy has it roots in a discriminatory agenda (U.S. Commission On Civil Rights, 1980).  It is clear that differing policy actors have conflicting views on the aims of U.S. immigration policy, and likely the means.  It is equally clear that the federal government must consider the various policy aims of constituent governments, while also assuring the needs and interests of minority or weaker groups are protected.   It appears to this author that the federalist system of government is both the cause of the slow progress in immigration reform, and responsible for the benefits of the existing immigration policy to various constituents.

Despite the history of incrementalism inherent in a federalist system, the immigration debate has started a new chapter in what appears to be a continual redefinition of federalism to determine where legislative and administrative power resides in immigration policy.  As federal immigration policy consequences are largely borne by state and local governments, the last decade has seen the rise of immigrant federalism creating a patchwork of federal, state, and local immigration laws that clearly disagree over both the aims and means of national immigration policy.   While the immigration federalism policy debate appears far from over, the urgency to improve immigration policy is clear, because existing policy allows the U.S. citizen children to be involuntarily taken from their undocumented immigrant parents, a situation that should never occur in a country built on the principles of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

 

 

References

Cambria, N. (2012, July 19, 2012). Judge gives Missouri couple custody of illegal immigrant’s child  Retrieved August 4,, 2012, from http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/judge-gives-missouri-couple-custody-of-illegal-immigrant-s-child/article_8d7ca32d-94e9-54f4-91a8-7512476da753.html

Congressional Budget Office. (2007). The Impact of Unauthorized Immigrants on the Budgets of State and Local Governments.  Washington DC: U.S. Congress: Congressional Budget Office Retrieved from http://www.cbo.gov/sites/default/files/cbofiles/ftpdocs/87xx/doc8711/12-6-immigration.pdf.

Gigler, L., Ross, B., & Hill, A. M. (2012, February 1, 2012). Adoption Battle Over 5-Year Old Boy Pits Missouri Couple Vs. Illegal Immigrant  Retrieved August 4, 2012, from http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/adoption-battle-year-boy-pits-missouri-couple-illegal/story?id=15484447 – .UB1uVI6_FLo

Hanson, G. H. (2007). The economic logic of illegal immigration. Council on Foreign Relations, 26(April 2007), 1-52.

Hoefer, M., Rytina, N., & Baker, B. (2012). Estimates of the Unauthorized Immigrant Population Residing in the United States: January 2011.  Washington, DC: Department of Homeland Security Retrieved from http://www.dhs.gov/xlibrary/assets/statistics/publications/ois_ill_pe_2011.pdf.

Huntington, C. (2008). The consistutional dimension of immigration federalism. Vanderbilt Law Review, 61(3), 787-853.

Martin, J., & Ruark, E. (2010). The fiscal burden of illegal immigration on United States taxpayers (pp. 1-95). Washington DC: Federation for American Immigration Reform.

Ross, B., & Hill, A. M. (2012, July 18, 2012). Tug-of-Love: Immigrant Mom Loses Effort to Regain Son Given to US Parents  Retrieved August 4, 2012, from http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/immigrant-mom-loses-effort-regain-son-us-parents/story?id=16803067 – .UB1t-o6_FLo

Shafritz, J. M., Russell, E. W., & Borick, C. P. (2011). Introducing public administration (7th ed.). Boston: Longman.

U.S. Commission On Civil Rights. (1980). Historical dimiscrimination in the immigration laws. In R. Fiske-Rusciano (Ed.), Experiencing race, class, and gender in the United States (5th ed.). Boston, Mass.: McGraw-Hill Higher Education.

Wessler, S. F. (2011). Shatter Families: The Perilous intersection of immigration Enforcement and the Child Welfare System: Executive Summary (pp. 1-10). New York, New York: Applied Research Center.

Zeskind, L. (2005, October 23, 2005). The new nativism. The American Prospect  Retrieved August 10, 2011, from http://prospect.org/cs/articles?articleId=10485

 

 


Healthcare for Illegal Immigrants Serves the Public Interest


Illegal immigration is one of the more contentious social issues facing Americans in the last several decades, dominating political discourse and affecting other social debates including the economy, education, unemployment, equality, and often, healthcare.  The illegal immigration debate is fueled by a resurgent nativist movement in the United States that argue illegal immigrants are responsible for a variety of social ills as they take American jobs, fail to pay taxes, and use a disproportionate share of scarce community resources.  From a healthcare point of view, the rhetoric against illegal immigrants is fierce and misunderstanding is prevalent as many Americans are worried that illegal immigrants are overburdening the healthcare system at taxpayer expense (Blum, 2012; Bush, 2012; Eviatar, 2009).  Rather than appeal to historical arguments that describe the U.S. as a country of immigrants, economic arguments the demonstrate the economic contributions of illegal immigrants, or moral arguments that the U.S. has a moral responsibility to provide care for those who contribute to society, this paper will argue the practical merits of providing healthcare access to illegal immigrants, including improvements in overall public health and the reduction of healthcare costs.

Despite arguments that illegal immigrants are a burden to the U.S. public healthcare system, subsidized care for illegal immigrants represent a tiny fraction of overall healthcare spending and in particular, publicly funded healthcare.  Mohanty, Wolhandler, Himmelstein, Carrasquillo, and Bor, (2005) found that all immigrant healthcare expenditures in 1998 were  7.9% of total U.S. healthcare expenditures, and government funded healthcare for both legal and illegal immigrants was a mere 2.3% of total expenditures.  Another study by Goldman, Smith, and Neeraj (2006) found that because the “foreign-born are relatively healthy and have less access to health insurance, they are disproportionately low users of medical care” (p. 1710); also finding that in 2000, government funded healthcare for undocumented immigrants amounted to $1 billion dollars.  Besides lack of health insurance and overall health, there are a variety of additional social and economic reasons that illegal immigrant use of healthcare is far below that of U.S. citizens, including the Personal Responsibility and Welfare Reform Act of 1996, that prevents illegal immigrant access to federally-funded healthcare, the fear of deportation, limited English language proficiency, and social stigma (Derose, Escarce, & Lurie, 2007).  In essence, the liminal legality of many immigrants often prevent them from seeking access to healthcare (Menjivar, 2006).

While opponents of illegal immigration might consider the limited use of U.S. healthcare resources a positive outcome of tougher immigration policy, existing policies create a number of socioeconomic problems.  For example, the lack of access to basic preventative care exacerbates emergency room costs.  Mohanty, et al. (2005) found that emergency room costs for uninsured immigrant children were three times as high as those for U.S. born insured children, while annual per capita healthcare expenditures for immigrant children were 86% lower.  Medical practitioners suggest that while U.S. hospitals have an obligation to provide care without regards to income or immigration status, that the “early diagnosis and treatment in a primary care setting are both medically preferable and a better use of resources” (Okie, 2007, p. 526).  Consequently, in order to reduce healthcare expenditures for illegal immigrants, while improving outcomes, public policy should seek to improve illegal immigration access to primary care by providing low-cost, basic coverage for illegal immigrants and creating national legislation that creates a safe harbor for illegal immigrants in healthcare settings.

Another serious policy concern in the illegal immigrant healthcare debate is that of public health.  Opponents of illegal immigration argue that illegal immigrants “come most often from countries with endemic health problems [and] the rapidly swelling population of illegal aliens in our country has also set off a resurgence of contagious diseases that had been totally or nearly eradicated by our public health system” (Federation for American Immigration Reform, 2009, p. 1).  There is truth in their argument, insofar as “laws and bureaucratic barriers reduce their use of key preventive health services, such as immunizations and screenings for infectious disease” (Okie, 2007, p. 526).  However, while FAIR advocates for a public policy of immigration enforcement and deportation as the solution, there are serious flaws in their policy position, including high enforcement costs, labor shortages, and damage to the economy (Immigration Policy Center, 2012).   Rather, policy should encourage immunizations and infectious disease screenings for every uninsured person, immigrant or otherwise, within U.S. borders as a matter of public health.  Indeed, the U.S. Congress has provided significant funding to the Centers for Disease Control global fight against contagious disease, recognizing that “infectious disease knows no boundaries” (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2011, p. 1).  In addition, since 2002, the United States has spent over $19 billion in the global fight against AIDS, TB, and Malaria (USAID, 2010).  It stands to reason that nativist sentiment and anti-immigrant rhetoric should not prevent the U.S. from implementing rational public health policy to prevent the spread of contagious disease within its borders.

The rise of nativist sentiment, fueled by anti-immigration groups like FAIR and others, has led to an irrational policy debate over public healthcare that is replete with misinformation and emotional appeals suggesting illegal immigrants are the cause of a disproportionate share of the problems in the U.S. healthcare system.  There is no room in the healthcare debate for scapegoating, given the U.S. has the highest healthcare spend in the world and the lowest quality of care in the developed world (Altarum Institute, 2012; Davis, Schoen, & Stremikis, 2010).  While illegal immigrants use disproportionally less healthcare than U.S. citizens, there remain problems with public policy that increase healthcare costs for illegal immigrants beyond what they should be, and increase public health risk.  Illegal immigrants live and work in the United States; it is simple fact.  Rather than continue to decry their presence or support unrealistic policy positions, the U.S. should work to implement pragmatic policy solutions that reduce healthcare costs and improve the public health by improving illegal immigrant’s access to primary care, immunizations, and infectious disease screening in a safe, and stigma-free environment.

References

Altarum Institute. (2012). Health Sector Economic Indicators: Spending Brief (pp. 1-2). Ann Arbor, MI: Center for Sustainable Health Spending.

Blum, S. (2012, February 20, 2012). week eight discussion [online forum comment]  Retrieved February 25, 2012, from http://csuglobal.blackboard.com/webapps/portal/frameset.jsp?tab_tab_group_id=_4_1&url=%2Fwebapps%2Fblackboard%2Fexecute%2Flauncher%3Ftype%3DCourse%26id%3D_92142_1%26url%3D

Bush, M. (2012, February 20, 2012). RE: week eight discussion [online forum comment]  Retrieved February 25, 2012, from http://csuglobal.blackboard.com/webapps/portal/frameset.jsp?tab_tab_group_id=_4_1&url=%2Fwebapps%2Fblackboard%2Fexecute%2Flauncher%3Ftype%3DCourse%26id%3D_92142_1%26url%3D

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2011, November 28, 2011). Global Vaccines and Immunizations  Retrieved February 25,, 2012, from http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/programs/global/default.htm

Davis, K., Schoen, C., & Stremikis, K. (2010). Mirror, mirror on the wall:  How the performance of the U.S. health system compares internationally (pp. 1-22). Washington DC: The Commonwealth Fund.

Derose, K. P., Escarce, J. J., & Lurie, N. (2007). Immigrants and healthcare: Sources of vulnerability. Health Affairs, 26(5), 1258-1268. doi: 10.1377/hlthaff.26.5.1258

Eviatar, D. (2009, August 14, 2009). Anti-Immigration Activists See Opportunity in Health Care Debate  Retrieved February 25, 2012, from http://washingtonindependent.com/55044/anti-immigration-activists-see-opportunity-in-health-care-debate

Federation for American Immigration Reform. (2009, 2009). Illegal Immigration and Public Health  Retrieved February 25, 2012, from http://www.fairus.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=16742&security=1601&news_iv_ctrl=1007

Goldman, D. P., Smtih, J. P., & Sood, N. (2006). Immigrants and the cost of medical care. Health Affairs, 26(6), 1700-1711.

Immigration Policy Center. (2012, February 16, 2012). Bad for Business  Retrieved February 25,, 2012, from http://www.immigrationpolicy.org/just-facts/bad-business

Menjivar, C. (2006). Liminal legality: Salvadoran and Guatemalan immigrants’ lives in the United States. American Journal of Sociology, 111(4), 999-1037.

Mohanty, S. A., Woolhandler, S., Himmelstein, D. U., Carrasquillo, O., & Bor, D. H. (2005). Health care expenditures of immigrants in the United States: A nationally representative analysis. American Journal of Public Health, 95(8), 1431-1438. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2004.044602

Okie, S. (2007). Immigrants and health care: At the intersection of two broken systems. The New England Journal of Medicine, 357, 525-529.

USAID. (2010, October 29, 2009). Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria  Retrieved February 25,, 2012, from http://www.usaid.gov/our_work/global_health/id/tuberculosis/partnerships/globalfund.html