Topics: Obamacare

Conn Carroll: Texas, California show how immigration reform could save Obamacare

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This past February, The Washington Examiner published a series of articles that I researched and wrote on the economic, fiscal and social crisis facing California.

The increasingly misnamed Golden State, I reported, currently has the nation's second-highest unemployment rate, the nation's highest poverty rate and the nation's third-highest rate of income inequality.

With wealthy-landed liberals buying up even more real estate along the coast, making middle-class home ownership impossible, and a public school system that is 47th best in the nation, California is looking more and more like a feudal society every day.

The series identified many reasons why California has lost it's golden luster (public-sector unions, environmentalists, trial lawyers, etc.), but at no point did the series ever blame illegal immigration for California's problems. Of all the emails I got about the series, this was the most common complaint.

But the simple fact is that illegal immigrants are not to blame for California's troubles. One need only look at Texas, a state that has a much bigger border with Mexico and a similarly large illegal immigrant population.

Despite its many illegal immigrants (or maybe even because of them), Texas has a booming private-sector economy, low unemployment and highly competitive public schools.

But while Texas and California have identical Latino populations (nonwhite Hispanics make up 38.1 percent of both states' populations), Texas has done a much better job of assimilating its newcomers.

A language other than English is spoken in more than 40 percent of all California homes. That number is just 34 percent in Texas. Hispanics own almost 21 percent of all businesses in Texas. That number is just 16 percent in California.

But there is one thing California is great at -- getting immigrants hooked on welfare. California is home to just 10 percent of the entire U.S. population but also has one-third of its total welfare recipients.

And while California's population is just 50 percent larger than Texas', its welfare caseload is 10 times as large. That dependency culture gets passed to California immigrants, as well.

While just 1.9 percent of all Texans are on welfare, 4.1 percent of all Californians are. The numbers are even worse for the foreign-born, non-U.S. citizen population.

In Texas, just 2.1 percent of all foreign-born, non-U.S. citizens are on welfare. California has more than triple that percentage of foreign-born, non-U.S. citizens on welfare, at 6.6 percent.

All this is highly relevant to the debate that conservatives and libertarians are having over the Schumer-Rubio amnesty bill. Conservatives claim that granting the current cohort of illegal immigrants amnesty will vastly expand the federal government's welfare state.

Libertarians say Americans shouldn't worry because: 1) poor immigrants use welfare less often than the native-born poor; and 2) they are good for overall economic growth.

But as the numbers from California and Texas show, the economic benefits immigrants offer are highly dependent on which welfare state they immigrate into.

If immigrants come to a generous welfare state like California, they do seem to have trouble assimilating and often do become dependent on the state. If they immigrate to a state like Texas, however, they seem to do just fine.

"You don't screw up your policies to fit a stupid government program," amnesty advocate Grover Norquist recently told National Review, "You reform the stupid government program."

But is that realistic politically? President Obama just passed the largest expansion to the American welfare state in more than 50 years. And despite all its implementation problems, Obamacare is still highly popular among Latinos.

Do libertarians really believe that repealing and replacing Obamacare will be easier with millions of new immigrants benefiting from the program? Will amnesty make it more or less likely that more states go down the path of high taxes and dependency like California?

The welfare state that immigrants immigrate to matters. And as long as Obamacare is still law, amnesty looks like a surefire way to help liberals expand it.

Conn Carroll (ccarroll@washingtonexaminer.com) is a senior editorial writer for The Washington Examiner. Follow him on Twitter at @conncarroll.

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