California needs to have a serious conversation about illegal immigration, without the vapid posturing of politicians on both sides who view immigration as a political football used to score political points. This state needs to address the long-term deleterious effects of a two-tiered system that restricts deserving and qualified immigrants from coming here legally, while opening the door to a flood of illegal immigrants offered every incentive to make California their home – welfare benefits, free education, scholarships to our UC system, subsidized or free healthcare – even the right to practice law.
It’s no wonder that many native-born and legal immigrant residents of California feel that Democratic politicians reflexively elevate the claims of people who entered the country illegally over the law-abiding, tax-paying populace. The why is not a mystery – Democrats see illegal aliens and their progeny as future Democratic voters.
In the 1980s, religious leaders pioneered a sanctuary movement in response to civil wars ripping Central America apart. The wars are long over, yet the immigrants keep coming, seeking not protection from death squads, but better economic circumstances.
The problem is obvious and manifold: People who are waiting in line to come to the country legally – some for decades – are discouraged from doing so because it does not pay to follow the law, and Americans are beginning to resent the fact that illegal residents on average impose substantial financial burdens on our country.
California is home to more than 2.6 million illegal aliens, with 3.5 million people in illegal resident households, at a cost to California taxpayers of more than $23 billion dollars annually, according to the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which advocates stronger limits on immigration. These burdens are straining a state with crumbling infrastructure, terrible schools, excessive pension obligations, unaffordable housing forcing veterans and other Americans to live on the streets, and a middle-class tax base fleeing California daily.
Day after day in California, we read stories like the chainsaw attack last week by 32-year-old Alejandro Alvarez of Whittier, who gruesomely assaulted his wife in front of their three boys. He had been deported 11 times previously but kept coming back. The greatest brunt of criminal activity perpetrated by illegal aliens falls on their own communities, but liberal politicians turn a blind eye to this harsh reality. It doesn’t fit their narrative.
California’s sanctuary state laws have created a permanent underclass that is exploited for cheap labor, and preyed upon by the criminals shielded by actions such as Oakland Mayor Libby Schaff’s reckless warning to ICE targets earlier this year. California itself is exploited by “guests” who come and put down roots without obeying the laws that govern the rest of us – laws relating to taxation, identity theft, and more.
A backlash is growing in California against the legislated lawlessness of “sanctuary.” So far, 12 counties and 42 cities have taken action against California’s sanctuary state policies.
Orange County (the nation’s third most populous) is now posting inmate release dates in order to enhance communication with ICE. While sanctuary city and state laws are fashionable among California’s coastal elites, they find less favor in rural communities facing the economic and cultural challenges imposed by illegal immigration.
The backlash against illegal immigration threatens to have a permanent impact on our immigration laws, to the detriment of legal immigrants. Western countries including Canada and Australia welcome highly skilled foreign immigrants with open arms, while America is losing out on the best and brightest foreign workers through its backlash against illegal immigration, and will be the poorer for it in future generations.
Harmeet Dhillon is a Republican National Committeewoman, former vice-chair of the California Republican Party and a participant in the McClatchy/Sacramento Bee California Influencer series on public policy, politics and government. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org and find the Influencers (with more to come Monday on “sanctuary” policy) at sacbee.com/influencers.