Importing Poverty Is Making America Poor


April 13, 2023

By Brian Lonergan

For much of the post-World War II era, America has been expected by many of its citizens to be a benevolent King Midas to the rest of the world. We have attained unprecedented levels of prosperity, and we are expected to share that with anyone seeking to improve their conditions.

While such philanthropy may cause hearts to swell with good feelings, it often comes at a steep price. At a time when America is showing all the characteristics of an empire in decline, that price has now become a crippling burden.

One of the most irksome talking points anti-borders activists repeat endlessly is that “America is the wealthiest country on Earth.” This is based on data showing the United States has the highest concentration of millionaires and the largest gross domestic product.  

There is trouble, however, below that hyper-affluent upper level. The share of American adults who live in middle-class households has shrunk by 11 percent in the last 50 years. The gross federal debt sits at an all-time high of over $31 trillion. China is working aggressively to supplant the United States as the global superpower and is attacking our currency, military supremacy, and access to vital natural resources, among other areas. Our current leadership seems interested not in reversing America’s deterioration, but rather in managing it better than the opposition party.

Now add excessive immigration to these problems. Instead of “making America stronger,” as clueless sanctuary mayors dutifully insist immigration does, today it is only making America poorer and more balkanized.

We no longer have the luxury of trying to solve global poverty by importing poverty here in never-ending numbers.

A recent New York Times report found that the children of immigrants, those here both legally and illegally, now make up four-in-nine of all poor children living in the United States. This comes at a time when homelessness is reaching crisis levels in many of our larger cities. How many homeless Americans, many of whom are often military veterans suffering from mental illness, now have to compete with illegal aliens for limited shelter space and city resources to stay alive?

It should not be surprising that mayors who virtue signal their cities’ sanctuary status are also dealing with the highest levels of homelessness, crime, crowding, and drug addiction. Taking on seemingly infinite numbers of migrants costs a lot of money. When that happens, money is diverted from other programs.

New York City, currently the most dangerous sanctuary community in America, has been complaining about the costs of illegal immigration since Governors Greg Abbott (R-Texas) and Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) began busing illegal aliens there. Unable to pay the costs of his sanctuary rhetoric, Mayor Eric Adams has been forced to slash a combined $1.1 billion from the city budget each year for the next four years.

The honorable thing for Adams to do in this situation would be to admit his mistake regarding sanctuary policies and change course. Instead, he has reaffirmed his support for the policies and sent a $654 million bill to the federal government.   

Did the residents of states like Nebraska and Mississippi vote for Gotham to become a sanctuary city? They did not, but now they are being told to pay for the fashionable noblesse oblige of New York’s political class. Why are such passionate advocates for anti-borders policies so quick to make anyone but themselves pay for them?

While the same activists claim illegal aliens pay taxes, the net effect of illegal immigration is a huge loss for the country. That is evidenced by the $150.7 billion total fiscal cost of illegal immigration on U.S. taxpayers.

We live in a time when many other institutions in America are struggling with insufficient resources. Our schools, healthcare systems, drug treatment centers, and transportation infrastructure—to name just a few—are all suffering from a lack of funding. An infusion of more than $150 billion would make a huge difference toward addressing those problems. Instead, we throw that money into an abyss, as mandated by radical activists and unscrupulous politicians looking to cement their hold on power through policies that make their constituents feel good but spend other people’s money.  

The reality is that America’s salad days of the late 20th century are over. We no longer have the luxury of trying to solve global poverty by importing poverty here in never-ending numbers. While we should keep the door open for legitimate refugees suffering persecution by their governments, we must deal in self-preservation first. America is not King Midas, and the gold is running out.  

Brian Lonergan is director of communications at the Immigration Reform Law Institute, a public interest law firm working to defend the rights and interests of the American people from the negative effects of illegal migration.

Also published at American Greatness, April 13, 2023.

Get Connected

Sign up for our email newsletter to stay up to date with immigration reform in the United States.

Attorneys United for a Secure America (AUSA) is a non-partisan affiliation of talented attorneys dedicated to pursuing cases that serve the national interest when it comes to immigration law.

If you are interested in joining the network, visit the AUSA website.