Facts: Situations different in Mississippi, Arizona

Published 12:02 am Sunday, July 18, 2010

After multiple pages explaining how difficult it is to come up with hard numbers, the Congressional Research Service adopted calculations for 2006 pegging the net cost of illegal immigration to Mississippi taxpayers at $25 million.

The tally put the number of illegals in Mississippi at 49,000 and said they paid $44.2 million in sales and other taxes, yet incurred service and other costs (education, health care, incarceration) of about $70 million.

That was four years ago and the picture has likely changed, but the bottom line is this: Mississippi is not close to a crisis situation when it comes to illegals. Further, existing state and federal safeguards seem to be working here. And that leads to this caution: We are on the cusp of another election year for state offices. Some candidates will, no doubt, be tempted to raise all kinds of emotions and stoke fears about “taking our jobs” and such. Ask those who do for their facts.

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Viewed one way, it isn’t fair that any citizen of the United States should have to pay a penny toward the support of those who have entered the country illegally. But viewed in a larger context, we all pay to house, feed and provide health care to all the lawbreakers now incarcerated. The cost of criminality of all types is a cost that democracies bear.

The 2006 numbers, by the way, were compiled by the Mississippi Auditor’s Office under the tenure of Phil Bryant, who is now lieutenant governor and will likely be a candidate for governor in 2011. Bryant is not given to histrionics on illegal immigration or any other topic, and is a person who can be trusted to speak accurately on the specific situation in Mississippi.

Lawmakers in Arizona felt compelled to act and cited profound costs of illegals there when passing the statute that has drawn federal opposition. Lawmakers and candidates here don’t have that basis, meaning there’s no reason to jump on the bandwagon as state Rep. Becky Currie, R-Brookhaven, proposes.

By state law, Mississippi employers are now required to use the federal E-Verify system to validate the eligibility of every new employee. There is punishment for those who fail to follow this law. Give this plan a chance to keep the number of illegals in this state low — and keep the cost to citizens at a minimum.