15-bills are up for discussion before the state House State Government Committee, most of which are included in a package called “National Security Begins at Home.” The bills range from authorizing local police officers to conduct Arizona-style enforcement, to requiring government-issued ID to receive public benefits, to barring babies born to illegal immigrants in PA from automatic citizenship status.
The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) testified that this is a states issue too, and government can’t pick and choose which laws to enforce. “They might be the nicest person in the world, looking for work, however we’ve got lawbreaking that starts here,” says FAIR’s Robert Najmulski.
But the Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition (PICC) contends that the bills being discussed are fueled by fear, and detrimental to all Pennsylvanians. “Their goal: attrition through enforcement will weaken our commonwealth, which relies on immigrant workers and employers to keep our economy strong,” says PICC executive director Brian Baldia. He spoke in the capitol rotunda, as critics lamented that the committee’s agenda was lob sided in favor of the bills’ supporters.
Inside the hearing room, Chairman Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler) defended his references to Pennsylvania’s “illegal alien” invasion. “Personally, I take offense when somebody calls a foreign national who is here illegally an immigrant. My wife is an immigrant. My wife immigrated here legally.”
Both sides of the debate are talking dollars and cents. FAIR testified that taxpayers’ bill for illegal immigrant amounts to $1.3-billion dollars a year. “That is broken down through education, Medicaid, criminal justice system, welfare and other benefits,” Najmulski says. But, the ACLU of Pennsylvania contends that study can be debunked. Legislative director Andy Hoover says most of the so-called cost is for the education of the children of undocumented immigrants, who are US citizens according to the Constitution.
“Two states that have passed these ‘papers please’ laws, these law enforcement bills, have lost hundreds of millions of dollars in business. Arizona and Georgia have both seen economic disaster as a result of passing these laws,” Hoover adds.