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Opinion: Columnists

Illegal immigration is a money-maker for everyone but taxpayers

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Opinion,Education,Ron Arnold,Columnists,Immigration,Texas

With illegal immigrant leaders picketing the White House, screaming demands that President Obama include them in “any future negotiations;” with the possibly orchestrated influx of unaccompanied children from Central America jumping the U.S. border with questionable motives; and with the White House gleefully doing anything it wants and taunting the Republicans into a suicidal impeachment frenzy over the failed rule of law, American politics is degenerating into a surreal drama of criminal hubris, strategic cunning and livid stupidity.

The impeachment rage is easy to quench by a constitutional reminder: a simple majority vote by the Republican-controlled House could easily pass a bill of impeachment against Obama. No problem.

But that doesn’t remove him from office. The House bill then goes to the Senate, where the chief justice of the United States presides over the trial. It takes a two-thirds majority vote by the Senate to convict and remove a president. That won’t happen. Ask the Republicans who impeached President Clinton what that did to their election hopes (they lost five House seats).

The criminal trespass of our borders by unaccompanied children has slowed but will not stop and will only become more worrisome. The July 25 Economist/YouGov poll asked, “What should be done about illegal immigrant children?” and found that 66 percent of Americans sympathized with the kids crashing our gates, but 81 percent think it’s a serious problem, 77 percent want them sent back right away and 32 percent would send them back even if it’s not safe. The poll didn’t ask whether people believe that Obama is causing the inundation for political advantage.

A major sticking point seems to be the motive: Do they come because they expect amnesty, a better life and a free ride in America? Even 51 percent of Hispanics think that’s the real motive. The us-and-them factor in this crisis is not so much racism as it is nationalism.

And thereby hangs the price tag. What are these kids costing the nation’s taxpayers? All we see in the mainstream media is piles of kids sleeping on the floor in bare-bones warehousing. There’s more to it.

First comes the toll on our schools. Obama is distributing more than 100,000 school-age illegal immigrant children nationwide who bring low levels of education that will devastate classroom averages. Caroline Woodason, assistant director for student support at the public schools in Dalton, Ga., told the Dalton Daily Citizen that most such students have "very, very limited amounts of education [and] in some cases, they cannot count to 10. They’ve never seen a computer. In most cases, they cannot speak English or Spanish.”

The dollar cost of illegal immigrant children to schools has not been assessed, but the costs to the federal government are exact and visible to anyone who searches USASpending.gov. Enter the search term “unaccompanied alien children” and you will get the total spending since 2009: $1.1 billion — paid to various nonprofit organizations that run government-approved programs.

The high-dollar winner of the sweepstakes comes across as a luxury resort for the uninvited: Texas-based Southwest Key Programs Inc., with $466.1 million (2009-2014) in federal grants from five major agencies, the Department of Health and Human Services ($360.5 million); Department of Labor ($4.9 million); Department of Commerce ($2.1 million), and the Department of Justice ($670,760). SKP is big and it’s not just for illegal immigrants: it operates 68 programs in 40 cities with more than 2,200 employees in six states serving about 6,000 people each day.

Southwest Key is unique among the service providers for illegal immigrants: it is both a for-profit corporation and a registered tax-exempt 501(c)(3) nonprofit group, which has provoked suspicion and criticism for its dual identity and its astronomical executive compensation — president and CEO Juan Sanchez (a Harvard-educated Ph.D.) got $338,770 in 2013; CFO Melody Chung got $267,598; COO Joella Brooks got $177,321 and three vice presidents each received more than $150,000.

The non-profit SKP is the largest provider of shelter services for unaccompanied minors in the U.S. (2013 revenue $96.3 million) and the for-profit company ($124.2 million in 2013) operates service centers and provides services to an accredited college preparatory school with a large, attractive campus in Austin, Texas — founded by SKP’s Sanchez. The school operates under a state charter, but the SKP groups both receive funding not only from federal, state, and local governments, but also from foundations, corporations, individuals, and special events.

SKP not only provides safe shelters for minors and help in locating family members of illegal immigrant children, but also operates in disadvantaged communities with alternatives to incarceration for youth, workforce development, and — completely unexpected — family strengthening services to keep kids at home in an intact, involved family, something public schools don’t do very well.

The problem with Southwest Key is not the excellence of its programs, but the fact that its money and effort is driven largely by young illegal immigrants whose motives are seen as undeserving by a majority of the public.

Obama wants billions to take care of his little Democratic voters-of-the-future, and you can bet the shelter industry is all for that. Four of Southwest Key’s board members, including a well-off Austin notable named Rosa Santis, have given election contributions to favorable candidates, all Democrats.

Money, to paraphrase 1960s politician Jesse Unruh, appears to be the mother’s milk not only of politics, but also of the unaccompanied immigrant children shelter industry.

RON ARNOLD, a Washington Examiner columnist, is executive vice president of the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise.
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