Last updated: July 18, 2019
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“Illegal immigration is a serious challenge.  And our responsibility is clear: We’re going to protect the border.” President George W. Bush, November 28, 2005, Tucson, Arizona


The cost and threat to the United States of millions of illegal immigrants from Mexico is staggering:

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According to the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), the annual net cost of illegal immigrants (after subtracting tax payments) to the American taxpayer is probably more than $45 billion [italics added]
Time Magazine in 2004 reported that 4,000 illegal aliens a day [italics added] walk across the 375-mile border between Arizona and New Mexico
As noted by Representative Lamar Smith (R, TX) in the National Review Online, “If you don’t know who’s coming into the country, like illegal immigrants, then you don’t know what’s coming into the country, like terrorist weapons.”
The ramifications of illegal aliens’ unfettered access to American soil are widespread, affecting U.S. citizens in areas such as:

·         Economic

·         Health Care

·         Public Safety

·         Birthright

·         Intangible Cost to the Government

While it is important to review the data clearly indicating how harmful illegal immigration is to the United States, it is even more important to note that, if we apply the appropriate resources, we have the capability to implement solutions to greatly reduce the number of illegal immigrants crossing the Mexican border.  President Bush, in his November 28, 2005 speech in Tucson, Arizona, touched upon some of our strengths, either in place or available for use, in physical border patrol:

Infrared cameras
Overhead surveillance drones
Aerial technology
New border patrol roads
New vehicle barriers
Expanding fences
These are enhanced by more “traditional” solutions:

Increase manpower at the border
Increase manpower and resources for border town police and jail systems
Prompt return of illegal immigrants once caught
Use of specially trained tracking dogs
Increase number of beds in detention centers for illegal immigrants.
A comprehensive approach to border control does not have to have all the above-mentioned strategies.  It does, however, need to combine both strong physical boundaries, advanced technology, with human resources to quickly identify and permanently return illegal immigrants to their home.

Illegal aliens do not just impact border states as summarized by the Washington Post, “Whereas two-thirds of Mexicans who came to the United States during 1985-90 went to California, in the past five years only one-third have done so.  Our [misplaced] border policies have transformed what was a limited regional movement affecting three states into a mass migration to 50 states.”  Without adequate borders, soon no state will be immune from the costs associated with illegal immigrants.

Donald Huddle’s 1996 study (as cited by FAIR) on the costs of illegal immigration, reported “illegal aliens were displacing roughly 730,000 American workers every year, at a cost of about $4.3 billion a year, and the supply of cheap labor depresses the wages and working conditions of the working poor.” The opportunity cost of inadequate border control in terms of lost employment and all that that entails, should alone warrant physically strengthening the borders, be it with fences, dogs, sensors, helicopters, or any combination of the above.

Health Care
According to Mother Jones magazine (2005), San Diego County’s Scripps Memorial Hospital was forced to close because of costs of unreimbursed care provided to illegal immigrants.  Elsewhere, near the border, the hospital administrator of Copper Queen Community Hospital, in an interview to Time Magazine, reported the hospital had incurred $1.4 million in debt over the past several years, for similar reasons.

Hospitals have no choice, they are mandated by the federal government to provide emergency treatment to illegal immigrants but they are not compensated for this. Rather than have the government pay out more and more, perhaps we should strengthen the borders, unilaterally across the southwest border, so the illegal immigrants will not be able to come in in the first place and expect free service.

Public Safety
According to Representative Lamar Smith, 20 percent of all U.S. federal prisoners are illegal immigrants.  A high number, but a fraction of those who should be incarcerated.  As noted by Time Magazine, “The open borders, for example, allow illegals to come into the country, commit crimes, and return home with little fear of arrest or punishment.”  The article further states, “…of the 400,000 illegal aliens who have been ordered to be deported, 80,000 have criminal records.”  According to the Washington Post, the Border Patrol, an arms-bearing unit, now has an annual budget exceeding $1.4 billion.  Humans, comprising much of the costs of the Border Patrol, can only be at one place at one time, for only a certain number of hours a day.  Fixed barriers, sensors, aerial cameras or other technology, would be there, all day and all night, without the costs associated with hiring staff.

Many illegal immigrants, women, come to the U.S. specifically to have babies (see Brimelow).  A child born to an illegal immigrant in the U. S. is considered a U.S. citizen, at birth, and is eligible to receive the benefits this country offers.  The benefits are not just child-specific, such as a free and appropriate education, but families can become eligible for public assistance benefitting the parents, too.

Stopping a pregnant woman from crossing the border should be easier than stopping a man, as a pregnant woman has the extra weight and mobility limitation associated with carrying an unborn child.  A solid fence, high, with barbed wire would be insurmountable to a pregnant woman.

Pregnant woman are a critical population to stop at the border.  Once in the United States, they not only draw down our economic resources but their child’s citizen status often begins a cycle of trying to bring family into the United States, and the child can partake of all of our resources, simply because their mother got across the border.  Much has been written about the cost of pregnant illegal immigrants crossing the border, but virtually no one has considered what physical barriers we can enforce which are particularly limiting to pregnant women.  As noted, perhaps the most basic, a high, solid fence, could save the United States millions of dollars.

Intangible Cost to the Federal Government
Clearly the financial costs to the federal government, as stated, are exorbitant.  But there are also costs in terms of the loss of faith of the American people that their government will protect them.  As noted by Time, the government’s failure to erect solid structures or implement ample human and financial resources towards curbing illegal immigration has led to a loss of confidence in the government by many in border states, “ ’As a rancher summed up the situation:  If the law can’t protect you, what do you do?’ Everyone, it seems is armed, including nurses at the local hospital, who carry sidearms on their way to work out of fear for their safety.”

Finally, Some Action
Within the past two months, the topic of illegal immigration has received widespread attention:

On November 14, 2005, Rep. Duncan Hunter (R, CA) introduced H.R. 4313, a bill “To amend the Immigration and Nationality Act and other Act to provide for true enforcement and border security, and for other purposes.” The broad-based bill addresses, in addition to legal and workplace concerns, “construction of fencing and security improvements in the border area from Pacific Ocean to Gulf of Mexico.”
On November 28, 2005, U.S. News and World Report ran a Special Report, “Border Wars:  The border with Mexico leaks like a sieve.  Why the Feds can’t fix it.”  This comes slightly more than a year (September 20, 2004) after Time also ran a Special Report, “Who Left the Door Open? Despite all the talk of homeland security, sneaking into the U.S. is scandalously easy – and on the rise.”
President Bush, on November 28, 2005 in Tucson, Arizona addressed members of the Customs and Border Protection Agency and Immigration Enforcement Agency, speaking directly to the costs of illegal immigration and what he has done and/or will do about it.
Stopping the seemingly endless flow of illegal immigrants across the Mexican-American border is a daunting task.  With 9,500 INS Border Patrol agents assigned to this border (CQ Researcher), and the number of illegal immigrants rising, it is clear than manpower is not enough.  The Great Wall of China, though periodically rebuilt, was originally built in the third century BC and it still stands; the Berlin Wall, while standing close to three decades, served well in physically and psychologically separating the two Germanys until its destruction in 1989.  Physical barriers can and do stop people from crossing into undesired territory.  In combination with the many resources the United States can bring to bear from technology to helicopters, there is no reason illegal immigrants from Mexico cannot “get the message” loud and clear they are not welcome, except now we will have the infrastructure in place to back the message up.

Works Cited

Brimelow, Peter. Alien Nation. New York:  Random House, Inc., 1996

Barlett, Donald, and James Steele. “Who Left the Door Open? Despite all the talk of

homeland security, sneaking into the U.S. is scandalously easy—and on the rise.

Millions of illegal aliens will pour across the U.S. Mexican border this year, many from countries hostile to America.  TIME looks at the damage, the dangers, and the reasons the U.S. fails to protect itself.” Time 20 September 2004: 51-71.

CQ Quarterly.  “Policing the Borders: Can the United States guard against terrorists?”

22 Feb. 2002: 145-168.

Federation for American Immigration Reform. “What’s Wrong With Illegal

Immigration?” March 2005


Federation for American Immigration Reform. “Immigration Issue Centers:  Illegal

Immigration.” 6 Dec. 2005


H.R. 4313, “To amend the Immigration and Nationality Act and other Act to provide for

true enforcement and border security, and for other purposes.” 4 Dec. 2005


Massey, Douglas. “Foolish Fences.” Washington Post 30 Nov. 2005, A23

Nolde, Haley. “Border Hospitals on the Brink.”  Mother Jones 21 June 2000


Smith, Lamar, Representative.  “The Illegal-Immigration Threat.” National Review

Online 30 April 2003

<>, “President Bush Delivers Remarks on Border Security and

Immigration Reform” 28 Nov. 2005


U.S. News and World Report 28 Nov. 2005