Friday, October 17, 2008

Illegal Immigrants Flying ICE Air

With the media’s attention focused on the presidential elections, not much attention is being given to illegal immigration. In fact, both candidates seem more than happy to side step the issue (and given their mediocre track records, I can understand why). However, I came across a really interesting article in today’s Wall Street Journal that I thought I’d share with you (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122244477368779127.html).

Did you ever wonder what happened to illegal aliens after they were picked up? I just assumed they were photographed, fingerprinted, given some coffee and donuts and put on bus back to Mexico or wherever, just to do it all over again a few days later. But what about the one’s who came from, say, Panama or El Salvador? The article, “Now Boarding: Illegal Immigrants On One-Way Tickets Home” written by Miriam Jordan gives some great insight into what the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is doing, and frankly, I was amazed.

Did you realize the US Government flies tens of thousands of illegals back home ever year? According to the article, in the fiscal year ending on September 30 2008, ICE had flown some 76,102 illegal immigrants to over 190 countries, excluding Mexico. Last year, the figure was 72,187. In 2006, that number was 50,222. What’s more, according to Ms. Jordan, their flight home is more than comfortable. It’s complete with “leather seats, ample legroom, and complimentary “free food” in the comfort of a quiet air conditioned Boeing 737/800. All the right amenities to encourage an illegal alien to stay home right? All that’s missing is group photo before the flight.

The US Government spends an average of $622 per person to fly these folks to such destinations as Guatemala City, Tegucigalpa, Honduras, with new flights to the Philippines, Indonesia, and Cambodia being added! Now, I’m the first to tell you I’m no mathematician, but if my numbers are right, that’s $47,335,444.00 of our tax dollars per year! I’m sure that doesn’t include wear and tear on the planes, fuel and personnel costs. I can’t help thinking how many police officers that money could equip, or how many school lunches or after school or senior programs that money could fund. Why can’t our politicians seem to act on this issue? Americans, overwhelming and irrespective of demographics or political party, want to see illegal immigration brought under control. Neither McCain nor Obama offer a serious solution to solving the problem; only the usual band-aide variety quick fix.

When the illegals arrive back home, most are welcomed by their home government, complete with the use of a free telephone and money changing service, and van to take them to the nearest bus terminal according to Ms Jordan. In short, they’re free to walk (or ride in most cases) without as much as a slap on the wrist. And if you think that’s the end of story, guess again. Many of these “non-revenue passengers” as they’re cited in the article, are frequent fliers, meaning they've been repeatedly deported (I wonder if that qualifies themselves for a window seat?). Oh, and that free lunch, it consist of a bologna sandwich, potato chips, orange juice, and a bag of carrots. Sorry, no substitutes.

I’ve got a better idea. Let’s put them on an old beat up smelly rusted tramp steamer and rock them back home. Everyone on board will have a great view of the ocean, though I suspect most will be hanging over the side looking down rather than enjoying the horizon. We’ll save a ton on “free” lunches (see the aforementioned comment), not to mention jet fuel costs or landing fees. Since the trip will take a little longer, they can make themselves useful by cleaning, scraping, and painting the ole tub, and of course there’s plenty of fresh air! Additionally, we need to bill their native country for the costs of returning their citizens. After all, illegal immigration is as much their problem as it is ours. Perhaps then we can get back to taking care of Americans.


So Whose Fault is it when Candidates fudge on the Federal Budget?
By Jean Johnson and Scott Bittle,
Authors of The Voter's Survival Kit, a series of election guides from PublicAgenda.org and the book Where Does the Money Go? Your Guided Tour to the Federal Budget Crisis

You may have the sneaking feeling that there's something the presidential candidates aren't telling you about the federal budget. And you're right. Here it is:

Every expert who looks at the federal budget uses the same word to describe it: unsustainable. The federal government is $10 trillion in debt already, and is projected to run a half-trillion dollar deficit next year. Plus, there are huge expenses coming up as the baby boomers retire and start needing help from Medicare and Social Security. If we do nothing, the government simply won't be able to keep up with its obligations -- which could mean higher taxes, cuts in programs and a weaker economy for everyone.

You can see why someone running for president and eager to get every vote he can get might want to slide over this ugly little reality as quickly as possible. There's actually no way to solve the problem without cutting spending on things people like, or raising taxes to cover the coming expenses or most likely doing some of both. If you've been following any of the campaigning so far, you can easily imagine why Senators McCain and Obama aren't tackling this thing head on.

Unfortunately, what they're saying while they're out there soliciting our votes is likely to put the country even deeper into debt. Political campaigns want to talk about more for everybody. And right now, the best independent analysis shows that the campaign promises coming from both John McCain and Barack Obama would make the problem worse (but for different reasons).

This isn't some hazy, far-off, inside-the-beltway problem. The next president won't have any choice but to start dealing with this problem. The first baby boomer started getting Social Security checks this year. Medicare also dipped into its trust fund for the first time -- not for very much, a "mere" $8 billion -- but it's the start of a disturbing trend.

If the red ink keeps flowing and we don't make some reality-based choices on the budget and Social Security and Medicare, we could jeopardize the health of our economy and our standard of living. The choices we make now will affect the amount of your paycheck, whether you can get a college loan or home mortgage, whether interest rates are high or low and whether older Americans (maybe that's you, or your parents or grandparents) can make ends meet and get the medical care they need.

If we do nothing, the country's debt will be growing faster than our economy in about 15 years, which means we won't be able to keep up. By 2040, the U.S. would need nearly every dollar it collects in taxes just to cover the costs of Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and interest on the debt.

But the pain will come long before 2040. Sometimes you'll hear politicians talk about Social Security and Medicare "trust funds" that will keep the programs running for years (until 2019 for Medicare and 2041 for Social Security). And that's true -- you really don't have to worry about your Social Security check failing to show up.

The problem is that the federal government has already used most of the money in the trust funds to keep its other operations running Instead of having nest eggs to draw on, Medicare and Social Security basically have IOUs from the government. And how will the government pay them? By raising taxes, borrowing, or cutting other programs. The problem isn't that people on Social Security won't get their checks, it's that the rest of the government may go broke covering them.

That's what the candidates aren't telling you, And frankly, maybe it's just as much our fault as theirs. When was the last time you voted for a candidate because of his or her tough stand on balancing the budget or frank talk about getting Social Security and Medicare spending under control? Not lately? When was the last time you ruled someone out because he or she dared to suggested cuts to Medicare or Social Security, or dared talk about raising taxes, not cutting them?

Candidates and voters have both been dancing around the nation's budget mess for years. Senators McCain and Obama are fudging the unpleasant facts. Most of the electorate seems willing to reward the one who weaves the most attractive tale.

To some extent, the next administration will be defined by money, or lack of it to be more exact. All those shiny new programs and tempting tax cuts the candidates are offering you need to be seen in that context. Yes, you can still cut taxes, but you need to starting whacking government programs left and right to pay for them. Or you can start new programs -- but the money's going to have to come from somewhere.

And you, the voter, ought to start thinking about what you really want because, one way or another, you'll end up paying for it.

©2008 Jean Johnson and Scott Bittle

Author Bio
Jean Johnson and Scott Bittle are lead authors of The Voter's Survival Kit, a series of election guides from Public Agenda and the book Where Does the Money Go? Your Guided Tour to the Federal Budget Crisis (HarperCollins, 2008). Public Agenda is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization devoted to helping citizens tackle tough issues. The Survival Kit is available at http://www.publicagenda.org/citizen/electionguides


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Public Agenda is a nonprofit organization dedicated to nonpartisan public policy research and civic engagement. Founded in 1975 by former U.S. Secretary of State Cyrus Vance and Daniel Yankelovich, the social scientist and author, Public Agenda is known for its influential public opinion surveys and balanced citizen education materials. Its mission is to inject the public’s voice into crucial policy debates. Public Agenda seeks to inform leaders about the public’s views and to engage citizens in discussing complex policy issues. It is also known for its destination web site, www.PublicAgenda.org, which has been twice nominated (in 2005 and 2007) for a Webby Award for best political site.


Poll Results

I asked you in our last poll if the federal government should be in the business of bailing out big business. 41% of you said "never" while 40% of you said "sometimes". The remaining 19% thought the federal government should bailout Wall Street. I think
the problem with the bailout was that while this was clearly an example of uncontrolled capitalism run amuck and an absentee government watchdog, the greed was to wide spread for Washington not to step in. Too many “innocent” companies in America’s Heartland were affected. Too many jobs outside Wall Street were being lost.

What I strongly disagree with, however, is the bailout of senior management; the so called “golden parachute” option. It was those who were the folks, despite the Ivy League education and $1000 suits, drove their companies (not to mention their employees, who didn’t share in their wealth) into desperate financial straits through mismanagement, incompetence and/or flat out greed.
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