For more than two decades my columns have urged a sensible debate about federal immigration policy because of its costly impact on state services.
The United States has the world's most generous legal immigration agenda. For immigrants, California is their primary destination. And keeping our border with Mexico open allows an unlimited number of illegal aliens access to education and medical care. Finally, unlimited numbers of non-immigrant work visas bring in many foreign-born of which only a few go home.
Now, partially because of over-immigration, California has an astronomical $42 billion deficit. As a consequence, the Lodi Unified School District laid-off teachers and will make other personnel cuts. [Lodi Unified Will Issue 390 Lay-Off Notices to Teachers, by Jennifer Bonnett, Lodi News-Sentinel, February 18, 2009]
Stated another way, the failure of so few to pay attention to the obvious effect immigration has on California's social services means that some of my former colleagues will soon be unemployed. Your children will suffer.
While it's hard to pinpoint exactly how much immigration costs California and the Lodi Unified School District, basic math indicates that it's a bundle.
To unravel the puzzle, I'll start at the academic year 1993-1994, as far back as the California Department of Education posts demographic statistics. Then I'll compare that data and the costs associated with it to 2007-2008.
In 1993-1994 when the Lodi Unified School District had 25,000 students, the majority (50.4 percent) were non-Hispanic whites. Hispanics (21 percent), Asians (19 percent) and African-Americans (1.4 percent) comprised the balance.
But today's LUSD presents an entirely different demographic portrait.
During the academic year 2007-2008, Lodi's enrollment totaled 31,600. The largest student segment is Hispanic, 37 percent followed by non-Hispanic white, 29.2 percent, Asian 5.5 percent and African-American, 1 percent.
Statewide the shift has been even more remarkable. In 1993-1994, California's K-12 enrollment was 42.3 percent non-Hispanic white, 37 percent Hispanic and 8.7 percent African-American. Today, however, Hispanics represent the largest block, 48.7 percent, non-Hispanic White, 28.5 percent and African-American. 7.3 percent.
In summary, one thing is clear. During the last fifteen years both district and statewide the Hispanic demographic population has increased dramatically while all other ethnic groups have decreased.
What's less clear is how to parse the costs.
Some of the students are legal immigrants. As such they are entitled to every learning benefit that California offers. Others are the children of illegal immigrants. These are wrongly afforded benefits because the Fourteenth Amendment is incorrectly interpreted to mean that children born to non-citizens on US soil are American citizens. And the misinterpretation is compounded by a Supreme Court decision that all children living in the US, even illegally, are entitled to an education.
Lodi, like all other statewide districts, has paid millions of dollars to educate the world at the expense of its own children. In addition to direct teachers costs, the district has significant overhead dedicated to educating non-English speakers.
The Multilingual/Multicultural Department has a staff of eight as well as six liaison/interpreter/ translators who specialize in serving non-English speakers.
Statewide, taxpayers spend tens of billions. According to the Department of Education, California currently has approximately 1.6 million K-12 English learners. Using the rough figure of $7,000 per pupil to educate them, the annual 2009 total bill to the taxpayers will exceed $10 billion—nearly 25 percent of the state's deficit.
For the sake of today's column, I'll accept as valid all the arguments so commonly heard in defense of multicultural education even though, as readers know, I disagree with all of them.
The most familiar include that embracing diversity is the key to a well-rounded education, that the US has a moral obligation to educate all children and that everyone has the right to seek a better life.
Even if those generalities are true, how much longer should taxpayers be expected to underwrite education for the entire world? And, assuming limits are inevitable, isn't therefore it appropriate to restrict immigration to help provide a better quality of education to our children while reducing the taxpayer's burden? And isn't firing American teachers while continuing to provide for illegal immigrants the last straw?
To ignore my questions only ensures that California will never get out of its budget hole and education, already collapsing, will be subject to an indefinite series of budget cuts until nothing is left except its bare bones.
I have not been politically correct for lo these twenty years. But I have been right in my insistence that immigration is one of the most expensive components in California's social structure. Disregard it at your own risk.
Joe Guzzardi [email him] is a California native who recently fled the state because of over-immigration, over-population and a rapidly deteriorating quality of life. He has moved to Pittsburgh, PA where the air is clean and the growth rate stable. A long-time instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, Guzzardi has been writing a weekly column since 1988. It currently appears in the Lodi News-Sentinel.