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Welfare for children of illegal immigrants in L.A. County likely headed toward unsustainable path

by Christopher A. Guzman, published

Costs in the CalWORKS welfare benefits program for the children of illegal immigrants living in Los Angeles County are rising, according to a report released by County Supervisor Michael Antonovich.

Welfare costs that went to the children of illegal immigrants exceeded $600 million, it said. In November alone, costs rose by $53 million. Social spending, as a whole, is up in Los Angeles County from $500 million last year. Currently, California has the highest population of illegal immigrants in the nation.  The numbers come not only in a county that has struggled financially but also in a state currently running record deficits. Last year, the supervisor also made note of the program's escalating costs.

While it's not accurate to say that the CalWORKS program is made up entirely of children of illegal immigrants, those born here are eligible for the program by virtue of being automatic United States citizens. It's viewed as an incentive for illegal immigrants to have those termed "anchor babies."

This is precisely what the supervisor sees as problematic in assessing the program's costs. By extension, his immigration platform includes being opposed to birthright citizenship which has received strong opposition from some immigrant groups. In addition to backing up the Arizona immigration law that most of his colleagues on the L.A. County Board of Supervisors denounced, it should also be noted that he has clearly distinguished between illegal and legal immigration, condemning the former and embracing the latter.

     "America's legal immigrants provide our communities with new vision and fresh energy, strengthening and enhancing our American culture and economy and securing our nation's dominance in the global economy. Illegal immigration, however, is an affront to those who have legally immigrated. It has had a catastrophic economic effect on our state and county," he states as one of his illegal immigration policy stances.

Lest Antonovich be painted as leaving Mexicans to fend for themselves in their own economically-ravaged country, he welcomes a partnership system of medical centers on the Mexican side of the border staffed by American doctors and medical students who work alongside Mexican doctors and students. By doing so, he believes that improved service south of the border will reduce the incentive for individuals to come to the U.S. illegally. 

At the same time, Antonovich believes in stronger border enforcement, highlighting that there should be a reserve of border patrol agents much like there is a reserve for police and sheriff departments. Strengthening safeguards against social security card fraud and preventing the use of easily obtained matricula consular cards also falls into the category of discouraging illegal immigration to the states. Along with his CalWORKS report, Antonovich brings up some key immigration issues.

Ultimately, the negative effects that illegal immigration is having on the state's largest county is definitely something that needs to be addressed. Current cracks in immigration policy do demonstrate that there is a lot of work to be done on this front, from welfare reform to security to employment safeguards.

What's happening in L.A. County begs the bigger question: What's so controversial about enforcing existing immigration laws if programs like CalWORKS are putting the county on the path toward fiscal unsustainability? More sustainable options should be considered as a remedy. Although this story is local in nature for now, it is national in scope with responsible immigration enforcement and reform ultimately resting on the Obama administration's shoulders. 

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