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Immigration by the numbers

Much of the news in the last two years has been focused on illegal immigration. Maybe now it’s time to stop the political games and look at the facts. For too long, people have argued, trying to make political points. That, which was acceptable by Democrats during the Obama years, is now considered unacceptable to the very same people.

These same people seem to forget that Barack Obama was once known as “deporter in chief.” As of 2016, he had deported more people than any other president. President Trump, right or wrong, has slowed the level of deportations from his predecessor. The cages that President Obama’s administration instituted to protect children from those who would abuse them are now criticized for separating children from parents.

Historically, data show that since 1850 there were only two decades, the 1890s and the 1910s, in which immigration exceeded 10 percent. In the 1970s the increase was at its lowest at under 5 percent, then began a steady increase until 2010. Then the percentage went over 13 percent by 2017. Keep in mind that this percentage is only a guestimate. We have no way of properly counting those who are slipping across our borders illegally. It is believed that three out of four immigrants are in the U.S. legally.

Consider these facts, historically most undocumented immigrants entering the U.S. were adult males in search of employment. More recently, most people crossing the border are “unaccompanied minors” and families with children; many of them who turn themselves into officials to make asylum claims. In fiscal year 2018, 107,000 families with children and 50,000 unaccompanied minors crossed the border — a 42 percent and 22 percent increase respectively over the previous year.

Compare that to fewer than 8,000 children annually from 2003 to 2012. To date, in fiscal year 2019, we’ve had four record-breaking months of apprehensions of family units at the southern border.

HOW THIS AFFECTS VIRGINIANS

One may wonder why I am writing about immigration. You are thinking “that is a federal issue.” It may well be a federal issue but it affects you, the taxpayers of Virginia, dramatically. By federal law, localities are required to provide young people an education. That includes providing education services to those who do not speak English. Every school system is financially strained to hire those extra teachers needed to be able to communicate with each student. From wealthy Arlington that has 28 percent of their students from assorted countries around the world trying to find teachers that speak all those languages, to our poorer rural counties that have only need to find teachers to teach one language, but struggle every year to balance their budgets. Some estimate the total costs of Limited English Proficiency (LEP) programs at $59.8 billion nationally with Virginia as high as a cost of $1.3 billion. While some may dispute these numbers, there is no question that educating the children of immigrants, including the citizenship birthright children, is expensive. Likewise, we pay for the medical care our hospitals provide either through taxes or charity services that get passed on in the form of insurance premiums. There is a correlating connection between health care costs and health insurance premiums rising and illegal immigration. To add to the problem, some localities have declared themselves “sanctuaries” to protect illegal immigrants from being arrested by either refusing to assist federal agents or outright aiding them from law enforcement. This action makes these communities magnets for those who have no respect for our laws. They make communities less safe as some prey on our citizens. Many of those are connected to the drug trade and to the gangs that generally operate the drug trades.

Many immigrants add much to our communities. They are not the problem. The problem is among those who are here illegally. Sometimes they are using government services that stress government budgets. The fact is, immigrant-headed households (51 percent) use some welfare more than native-born households (30 percent).

Most believe that we should have a fair and reasonable policy for immigration. We should have control of our borders and those who enter should be an asset to communities, not a burden for taxpayers. Maybe someday the House of Representatives will act.

Frank Ruff Jr. represents Lunenburg in the state Senate. His email address is Sen.Ruff@ verizon.net.