This editorial appeared in The Sacramento Bee.
With the economy in the tank, unemployment soaring and government budgets under stress, the issue of immigration, especially illegal immigration, is again moving to the forefront.
It is easy to see why. The federal government historically has done a poor job of policing this nation's borders, and California, with an estimated 2.7 million illegal immigrants living here, shoulders more than its share of the burden of dealing with the results.
Most of this, the state cannot escape even if it wanted to. We educate illegal immigrant children in our schools because it is in our interest (and theirs) to do so, but the U.S. Supreme Court also has ruled that we must.
We spend close to $1 billion a year keeping illegal immigrant felons behind bars in our prisons since if we let them go, even to deport them, many would go free long before their time, a condition that citizens and legal residents would soon find intolerable.
In the private sector, illegal immigrants make up an increasing share of the work force, not just on the farm but in construction, restaurants and hotels. They make up an estimated 5.4 percent of the U.S. work force. In California, their cheap labor buttresses the profits of companies large and small, makes our firms more competitive and our products less expensive, and ultimately helps the middle class by helping the economy grow. But by competing at the low end of the economic scale, illegal immigrants bid down the wages of low-skilled legal residents, including other recent immigrants who, ironically, are probably those hurt most by illegal immigration.
A study released this week by the Pew Hispanic Center highlighted the issues that illegal immigration brings to the fore, but it also pointed to some good news that might surprise some people.
To read the complete editorial, visit The Sacramento Bee.