Importance of this research

Although much has been written and said about immigration reform, very little has been done about it. Advocates for illegal immigrants claim that undocumented workers are essential to the economy (Passel, 2005). Employers, for example, hire illegal immigrants because these undocumented workers are willing to accept lower wages with no medical benefits or other benefits. It is possible, however, that this source of cheap labor comes at a very high price to Californians and, by extension, to Americans who live in other states.

It is possible that the cost of providing health care and other essential services to the illegal immigrant population may exceed any contributions that this group may make to the economy of California. Consequently, while individual employers may realize a savings by using the illegal immigrant workforce, these practices may have a negative effect on the overall economy. Since 1990, Californians have seen their taxes increase while the level of government services they receive has declined.

The notable exception to the overall decline in government services for residents of California is the increase in the number of medical and education benefits that have been made available to illegal immigrants (Green & Martin, 2004). Health care is only one of many systems and services that are used by illegal immigrants in California. However, by quantifying this one aspect of the impact of illegal immigrants on the lives of Californians, the proposed paper could provide another resource that could be used in the political fight against illegal immigration in this state.

If Californians knew how much illegal immigrants were costing them, both in terms of a financial burden and in terms of a shortage of resources, then they might be more highly motivated to demand that actions are taken to solve this problem. Literature Review Uncompensated medical care for illegal immigrants cost Californians $1. 4 billion in 2004 (Martin & Mehlman, 2004, p. 1). This figure, however, understates the true financial burden created by illegal immigrants.

Uncompensated health care services, educational services for illegal immigrants and their families, and the cost of incarcerating illegal immigrants who are arrested for various crimes other than illegal immigration cost California taxpayers a total of $10. 5 billion in 2004 (Martin & Mahlman, 2005, p. 1). Supporters of guest worker programs and other amnesty plans for illegal immigrants like to point out that illegal immigrants pay taxes and make other contributions to the economy.

According to Martin & Mahlman (2005), financial contributions in the form of taxes from illegal immigrants totaled $1. 7 billion in 2004, more than the cost of uncompensated medical care, but far less than the $10. 5 billion for education, health care, and incarceration. After crediting the illegal immigrant population for their share of taxes, the net cost of illegal immigrants to legal Californians is $8. 8 billion. Admittedly, only $1. 4 billion of this total was for medical care.

However, in a state in which millions of citizens are without health insurance and many cannot afford essential services, $8. 8 billion could have been spent on health care for citizens and for other programs that could have improved the quality of life and health of taxpayers and their families. Illegal immigrants tend to work low-skill jobs at wages that are below the industry average and, in some cases, below minimum wage. These jobs rarely include benefits such as health insurance, and the wages are too low for workers to be able to afford private health insurance.

Illegal immigrants and their children are more likely to live in poverty than citizens and legal immigrants (DeNavas-Walt, Proctor, & Smith, 2007). Consequently, although illegal immigrants make up about 11% of the population of the United States, this group represents 25% of all of the people in the United States who are uninsured (Green & Martin, 2004). The same lack of income that makes illegal immigrants unable to afford health insurance also makes them unable to pay for the high cost of medical care in the United States. The hospital must absorb the cost of treatment.

In El Centro, California, the Regional Medical Center and Pioneers Memorial Hospital lost a combined total of over $1. 5 million providing medical services for illegal immigrants in 2001 (Green & Martin, 2004). The cost of providing medical services to illegal immigrants is already taking a toll on hospitals. American hospitals are required by law to treat any patient that arrives in the emergency room, regardless of ability to pay and regardless of whether that person is in the country legally (California Medical Association, 2004).

As a result of this law, some hospitals in towns along the U. S. -Mexican border have reported spending as much as two-thirds of their operating income paying for uncompensated care for illegal immigrants (Green & Martin, 2004). As a result of these unrecovered losses, many hospitals have been forced to close their emergency rooms or to stop taking some ER cases, such as emergency births (Green & Martin, 2004). In other cases, the number of illegal immigrants that are filling the emergency room is so great that patients are waiting up to 6 hours to see a doctor (Green & Martin).

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