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Florida Bill Demands Federal Compensation for Immigration

The Florida Senate’s immigration-enforcement bill includes a provision that holds the federal government responsible for failing to enforce immigration laws or enact reforms, a failure that it states is taking a toll on state resources. That is why the proponents of the bill have added a measure that would require the state to calculate the cost of unauthorized immigration and would allow for the bill to be sent to the federal government. The legislature found that unauthorized immigration contributes directly and indirectly to the state costs in policy areas that include “law enforcement, criminal justice, labor and employment, education, health care, and human services.” The bill states that the costs are “placing a burden on the limited fiscal and human resources of the state and are impairing the economic recovery of the state.” The language in the bill goes on to specifically blame the federal government for its failure to adequately enforce and “implement comprehensive reforms to immigration laws in order to control and contain unauthorized immigration more effectively.”

The procedures set in place by the bill indicate that, before January 1st of next year, the director of the Agency for Workforce Innovation shall consult with the state Governor and submit a request in order to be reimbursed for the total costs expended by the state as a result of its unauthorized immigration; otherwise a reduction in or forgiveness of any debt, interest payments, or other moneys owed by the state to the federal government would be demanded in lieu of a total reimbursement. In effect, the Florida legislature has conveniently devised up a way to send a bill to the federal government for the costs it is purported to have as a result of its relatively large illegal immigrant population concentrated in cities like Miami and Orlando. The method by which they will quantify the exact cost, however, is murky. Moreover, just as it is nearly impossible to count the exact number of illegal immigrants residing in the state, so too is it nearly impossible to produce a figure that reflects the exact cost that the state is dishing out for each.

While it is a widely held truth that unauthorized immigrants do not entirely offset the total cost of services provided to them with the contributions they make to tax revenues in the state since Florida does not levee state taxes on income, they do contribute to the state property taxes which directly applies towards public schools, and generates local and state revenues. Apart from state sales taxes and other taxes they contribute to at a state, it is also a fact that unauthorized immigrants contribute to federal programs such as Social Security and Medicare, for which they may never be eligible to receive any benefits from. Furthermore, a report from the Congressional Budget Office cites that “although it is difficult to obtain precise estimates of the net impact of the unauthorized population on state and local budgets, that impact is most likely modest.” Moreover, while many of the benefits unauthorized immigrants contribute to flow to the federal government, and while many of the benefits they profit from are felt at the state and local level, it would be an exaggeration to label those as disproportionately unfair since the costs the state incurs is relatively small in scale. However, given the array of new immigration enforcement tactics the state is hoping to implement, it is not surprising that they have developed a means to charge the federal government for those pricey measures.

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