As the national Republicans court immigrant voters with immigration reform, Michigan Republicans work to alienate them

A winning strategy…for Democrats

As national Republicans are working hard to reverse the trend of Hispanic voters leaving their party in droves, Republicans in Michigan seemed bound and determined to do just the opposite. In what is a seemingly never ending push to solve problems that do not exist, Republican state Senator Joe Hune has introduced legislation to bar undocumented immigrants from obtaining any government benefits. There are already laws on the books to prevent this, but that is irrelevant when a good sound bite full of empty symbolism is in the making.

Hune’s justification is nearly comical:

Hune said Michigan is among many states “being inundated with illegal immigrants,” and that Michigan spends about $1 billion annually to cover illegal immigrants’ health care, education, welfare, jail stays and human services costs.

He said the $1 billion figure came from an opinion column by former state Rep. Dave Agema, R-Grandville, but Hune said he didn’t know how Agema came to that dollar amount.

“Even if that’s only partially correct, those numbers are still pretty significant,” Hune said.

“I don’t have a completely exact number on what it does cost us, particularly for the component that we’re addressing, and that’s the social welfare programs,” he added.

Okay then. Good thing you’re moving forward on this with absolutely no rationale or evidence to support your claims, Senator. The facts are actually not on Hune’s side, as it turns out:

The only public benefit illegal immigrants have access to is a Medicaid payment in the event of an emergency-room visit, said Judy Putnam, spokeswoman for the Michigan League for Public Policy.

Putnam said Michigan law already blocks illegal immigrants from state food and assistance programs and health-care policies. {…}

“Illegal immigrants are already banned from public assistance with one big exception, and that is emergency care at hospitals. So it would be really interesting to see what public benefits he’s referring to,” Putnam said.

“Those are our big public welfare programs. It sounds like kind of iffy research, truly,” she added.

In a 2010 report, the league calculated that undocumented immigrants make up 1.4 percent, or 140,000 people, of Michigan’s total population of roughly 10 million.

So, according to Agema, Michigan is spending $71,428 per year on every undocumented immigrant in Michigan. And, by law, that’s just on emergency room care. That number smells very much like it was pulled from Agema’s nether regions to me.

Meanwhile, as Michigan Republicans work hard to alienate immigrants and those trying to push for legitimate immigration reform, Michigan is facing a critical shortage of seasonal workers to pick our crops. Last year, asparagus farmers were forced to plow under unpicked crops and this year, it’s not looking any better.

The Michigan Farm Bureau reports that there are concerns about that there may not be enough seasonal laborers available to pick vegetable and other crops this year. This has been a problem in the past for some asparagus and apple growers.

Ken Nye is a commodity specialist with the farm bureau. He says last year’s poor crop yield lead many seasonal laborers to work in other parts of the country. Nye says those seasonal laborers may not plan on returning to Michigan this year.

“I think producers are pretty concerned about that,” says Nye, “So I’m sure they’re spending a lot of time working those issues out.”

They may want to talk to Joe Hune and his crusade to rid our state of illegal immigrants and anyone sympathetic to them. Not that he’ll listen, of course. He has to run for office in Livingston County and the fear of a tea party primary challenge is more real there than anywhere else.

Keep it up, Michigan Republicans. Your gerrymandering is only going to take you so far.

Adding… I had a nagging thought in my mind that Hune had done this before and, checking my previous posts, I find that, indeed, he has. Back in 2010, Hune was going to solve Michigan’s budget problem by preventing undocumented immigrants from receiving benefits, saying that his immigration bill would be “a big component” of reigning in state spending.

Judy Putnam laughed at this then, as well:

[Michigan League for Human Services] spokeswoman Judy Putnam said Hune’s proposal sounds like “a solution in search of a problem.”

“As a matter of course, we already bar undocumented immigrants from receiving benefits, and the State’s pretty strict about enforcing it. I don’t think there’s any savings to be had on this one,” Putnam said.

There were several problems with Hune’s plan to solve our budget issues in this way, as I pointed out in the piece:

  • The obvious fact that very little money will be saved with this bill since the laws are already on the books and being enforced.
  • It will require hiring more staff to root out the causes instances of this nonexistent problem which would actually INCREASE our budget.
  • Nationally, undocumented workers actually contribute $8.5 billion annually to Medicare and Social Security to Medicare and Social Security.
  • Most of the services that “illegals” are availing themselves of is under the purview of the Federal government, not State governments.

A completely fail idea then. A completely fail idea now.

[Photo credit: Chris Savage | Eclectablog]

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  • http://www.facebook.com/jillhoodwrenbeck Jill Thurtell

    And of course, there’s one more component missing. As with Romney’s argument that for the uninsured there’s always emergency rooms, that is a much higher price for the taxpayer to bear. It is a fact that preventive care (insured, obviously. Otherwise preventive care will not be sought) is much, much cheaper than heading to the emergency room by the time it’s gotten so bad it’s no longer manageable. As a taxpayer, I’d rather pay for that. Or is that covered under the federal Medicaid expansion? I honestly do not know if the DREAM Act would include that. I’d have to look into it further.

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