At the mid-point of President Biden’s term in office, some 5.5 million migrants have illegally crossed our southern border and made their way into almost every community across the United States. No longer able to deny that more than a quarter of a million illegal migrants a month is a problem – much less a crisis – the administration began 2023 by taking steps to cover up the magnitude of the problem.
On January 5, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) rolled out a new set of rules allowing entry to as many as 30,000 migrants from Venezuela, Cuba, Haiti and Nicaragua every month under claimed presidential parole authority. In fact, the statute that grants the president parole power defines clear limits on that authority. It may be exercised only on a temporary case-by-case basis and only under circumstances where there are “urgent humanitarian reasons” or “significant public benefit.” Masking the scope of the border crisis by moving 360,000 illegal entries off-the-books does not meet those criteria.
But there is an even bigger problem with the Biden administration’s abuse of presidential parole power: The price tag – a matter that no one at DHS seems to have given the slightest bit of consideration before asserting the authority to admit 360,000, mostly destitute, migrants to the United States. Unlike illegal aliens who sneak across the border or overstay visas, people who are admitted as parolees are eligible for a broad range of federal and state benefit programs.
Once here, parolees will be eligible for the earned income tax credit (EITC), assuming they meet the other requirements, because they will qualify as “resident aliens” under the tax laws. Unlike tax deductions, which reduce the amount of taxes owed, the EITC results in the Federal Treasury cutting checks to those who meet the income requirements. Similarly, parolees will be immediately eligible for coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), because they are “lawfully present.” Since most parolees are likely to be low wage earners, they will be in line for hefty taxpayer subsidies under the ACA.
In addition, because parolees are deemed “qualified aliens,” they will qualify for federal public benefits such as Medicare and Medicaid – some immediately and others in five years. Certain populations will be immediately eligible for federal public benefits because they are not subject to the five-year waiting period. For example, Cuban and Haitian parolees with pending asylum applications are immediately eligible to collect benefits, assuming they meet the other criteria. Moreover, all aliens who are granted asylum or refugee status are immediately eligible for federal public benefits.
But wait, there’s more! Parolees who are pregnant or who are under the age of 21 will, in most states, be immediately eligible for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) because federal law permits states to waive the five-year bar to provide Medicaid or CHIP coverage to aliens who are “lawfully present.” As of 2021, 35 states have chosen to provide Medicaid coverage to lawfully residing children and/or pregnant women without a five-year waiting period. Twenty-eight of these states also cover lawfully residing children or pregnant women in CHIP.
Rather than taking steps to curb the illegal immigration crisis it has created, the Biden administration is audaciously claiming authority to create an extralegal channel of immigration – amounting to about one-third of the number of immigrants admitted each year under our existing legal immigration process – while saddling federal, state and local taxpayers with huge cost liabilities that it has not even attempted to estimate.
The clear abuse of presidential authority, combined with massive unfunded mandates that will derive from the admission of 360,000 parolees a year (the DHS rule provides no sunset for the program), provides state attorneys general ample grounds and legal standing to challenge this program in the courts. These costs are in addition to an estimated $150 billion a year burden associated with illegal immigration, most of which are paid for at the state and local level.
The Biden administration’s feeble (and illegal) attempt to reduce the number of people crossing the border illegally by inventing ways for them to enter by other means will not solve the politically problematic illegal immigration crisis they have wrought. It will only make it more expensive.