Diagnosis for Democracy
Insights into the State of Our Union
A Blog by Rob Tenery, MD


May 12, 2014: Border Boondoggle

By Rob Tenery, MD on May 12, 2014

Except for infiltration by terrorists across the Canadian border, the most discussed 'border' issues all concern Mexico. With the United States’ insatiable appetite for illicit drugs, and hopes for a better life, our southern border has turned into a virtual war zone. Increasing border patrol presence, construction of a fence in some areas and stepped up surveillance have only made a dent in the flow of problems. Until the root causes are addressed this country will be in a losing battle.

Washington is in gridlock because the Republicans are afraid of losing the Hispanic vote and the Democrats are holding out for more illegals, before the problems are resolved. The flaw in the Republicans’ concern seems unfounded. As an example, even after President Reagan signed into law The Immigration Reform and Control Act in 1986, which granted amnesty to 3 million illegal aliens, George H. Bush still only garnered 35% of the Hispanic vote, when he ran for President in 1989. The problem of foot-dragging by the Democrats is causing an increasing dilution of this country's identity, spiraling costs of health care incurred by these uninvited residents, escalating violence that have direct ties to Mexican gangs and rampant drug trafficking.

Three areas must be addressed if a solution is to be found: elimination of the 'anchor' baby legislation, effectively closing our border and some form of amnesty.

‘Anchor babies’ is a term given to those infants who are born within the borders of the United States and are granted automatic citizenship, even though neither parent is a legal citizen. As background, this automatic birthright citizenship first arose after the Civil War as a Constitutional provision clause of the 14th Amendment in 1868. It was a way to undo the Dred Scott ruling and ensure citizenship for former slaves born on U.S. soil.

Analysis of Census Bureau data reveals that an estimated 340,000 births (‘anchor babies’) in the United States were born to parents of undocumented immigrants in 2008. That extrapolates out to 8 per cent of the births in this country. Carrying the extrapolations of all the costs out further, at an average of $25,000/birth, which also includes prenatal, delivery and post-natal care for both the mother and the newborn child, costs to the health care system would be predicted to be 8.5 billion dollars in 2008. Add to that another $10,000/year for 12 future years of required public educational costs, Medicaid, CHIP, Perinatal CHIP, welfare, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly food stamps), Section-8 housing through Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (formerly AFDC) and the costs generated by those who care for them, the costs rise exponentially.

It is estimated that since The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, at an average of 170,000 ‘anchor babies’/year over those 24 years, adjusting for inflation, have generated costs of $165,000/child or 673 billion dollars total. In more understandable terms, babies born to non-documented parents have generated costs to the United States of over two-thirds of a trillion dollars in the last 24 years and at a current rate of 58 billion dollars/year for just their birth and education.1 These cost estimates only take us through 2008.

Even if a 'hardened' fence were to extend from border to border and 100 miles out into the both oceans, there would still be some drugs and illegals that would continue to get through--- but a lot less! To be even reasonably effective, the border closure should directly coincide with some form of amnesty. After that specified time, everyone will be sent back with virtually no exceptions.

Realistically, this country is not going to be able to send 11-20 million people back to their home countries. As soon as the anti-amnesty supporters get over this premise, the sooner a solution can be reached. The only REASONABLE solution, mentioned in back corners of the debate, is to give those who are already in this country illegally, before a predetermined date, some sort of legal status. This new legal status would allow them to work, pay and receive benefits from social security, participate in the other entitlements programs and require them  to pay federal and state income taxes. For those who come in after a predetermined date, they go back to their country of origin and fall in line after those who are already in line through the normal immigration practices.

Continuing along this same scenario, the other stipulation would be those, who accept legal status for residency, but entered illegally, will never have the right to vote or hold public office. Controversial, as that might sound, this is the same stipulation afforded in some states to convicted felons, even after they have served their sentence. Looking at it from a more pragmatic way, these uninvited guests came this country or remained here under illegal pretense. Why should they be afforded these same rights of citizens, who are in this country legally?

A caveat, that could be offered to these current illegals, would be for them to voluntarily return to their country of origin and apply for legal immigration to this country. If and when they then return legally, they would have the right to vote and hold elected office.

Until the discordant voices unite and realize that a compromise is vastly better than the status quo, there will be no answer to the subject of illegals. Tina Grego, a journalist for the Denver Rocky Mountain News, published a column in October 2007, titled Mexican Visitor’s Lament that explained the costs incurred by illegals better than anywhere else that I have read.

What Ms. Greco concluded was, with at over a half a trillion dollars a year of incurred costs, this country can no longer turn a blind eye to our ‘uninvited guests.’

1. Tenery, R., Birthright Citizenship: The Silent Costs, Echoes for the Future, http://robtenerymd.com, December, 2010.

2. Grego, T., Mexican Visitor’s Lament, Denver Rocky Mountain News, 10/25/07.




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