The Corner

Minor Quibbles . . .

In “California’s Illegal-Immigrant Deficit,” Heather Mac Donald transforms California’s budget crisis into an illegal-immigrant crisis. The $5 billion California spends on illegals, she contends, represent “almost a quarter of California’s $21.3 billion deficit.” But California is slated to spend $111 billion in its 2009-2010 budget, and illegals are 8% of California’s population. California spends considerably less per capita on illegals than on citizens.

The calculation on which Mac Donald’s piece is based cites estimates that $4 billion is spent on the children of illegals.

But in fact, 73% of the children of illegals are American citizens, having been born here. Perhaps you don’t like birthright citizenship (although most of us are citizens for no better reason). But public-education expenditures on their citizen children are no more wasteful than other public-education expenditures.

Heather reports that 10% of the state prison population consists of illegals. But if federal incarceration statistics are any guide, more than half of Hispanic incarcerations are for immigration violations, not for drug offenses, larcenies, or crimes of violence. If so, illegals, at 8% of California’s population, are rather less crime prone than natives.

But these are mere quibbles. Mac Donald is right in substance, if not in magnitude: Undocumented immigrants impose public costs. These costs are a result of lawbreaking. In California, these costs may represent a couple percent of total state expenditures.

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