On Tuesday, California Governor Gavin Newsom (D) signed a bill making free health care available to illegal aliens. California is the first state to do so, reflecting a similar eagerness among Democrat presidential contenders to do the same thing at the federal level.
Never mind that those same Democrats support Obamacare, which imposed heavy tax penalties on United States citizens who didn’t purchase their own increasingly-expensive health insurance. In the political calculus of the Left, the economic needs of United States citizens count for less than the economic needs of illegal aliens.
The cost of providing these benefits to illegal aliens will be a massive $98 million. It’s a good thing that California doesn’t have any needy citizens who might benefit from those resources.
And of course California tax payers will have to pay the bill. California already has the highest marginal state income tax rate in nation – a punishing 13.3%. Citizens have been leaving California for more favorable tax states like Texas for years. Maybe that’s why California’s politicians don’t want the 2020 census to ask who is a citizen—it would illustrate the extent to which California’s policies have displaced its citizens and replaced them with illegal aliens.
Anyone with a rudimentary understanding of economics realizes that it is unsustainable for California to continue on its present course. As Nobel Prize winning economist Milton Friedman famously put it, “It’s just obvious, you can’t have free immigration and a welfare state.”
But not only is it bad economics, it’s also illegal under federal law. In 1996 Congress passed, and President Bill Clinton signed, a major welfare reform act. A crucial section of that law was inserted by the Republican Congress. It prohibited states from giving public benefits to illegal aliens. And it remains in federal law today at 8 U.S.C. 1621: an illegal alien “is not eligible for any State or local public benefit.” Public benefit includes “any … health … benefit for which payments or assistance are provided to an individual, household, or family eligibility unit by an agency of a State or local government….”
It’s not surprising that Governor Newsom would violate federal law without hesitation. He did the same when he was Mayor of San Francisco, maintaining and defending San Francisco’s sanctuary city ordinance, which violates 8 U.S.C. 1373(a).
If the Trump Justice Department wants to go on the offensive against states that directly violate federal law, California’s new law would be a good one to challenge. Even in the left-leaning Ninth Circuit, judges would find it difficult to come up with a reason to sustain the law when it is so directly pre-empted by federal statute.
In addition, Congress needs to revisit the 1996 law and put some teeth into it. Back then, it was never imagined that states would knowingly and directly violate federal law. Consequently, the law didn’t include any penalty. Now it needs to be amended so that any state that gives illegal aliens public benefits loses relevant federal funds. Only when faced with a real and significant penalty will radical state legislators like the Democrats in Sacramento worry about violating federal law.
Kris W. Kobach is a candidate for the U.S. Senate in 2020 and is the former secretary of state of Kansas. He is currently General Counsel for We Build the Wall. An expert in immigration law and policy, he coauthored the Arizona SB-1070 immigration law and represented in federal court the 10 ICE agents who sued to stop President Obama’s 2012 DACA amnesty. During 2001-03, he was Attorney General John Ashcroft’s chief adviser on immigration law at the Department of Justice. His website is kriskobach.com.