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Joe Guzzardi: Amnesty Would Devastate California; Nation Not Far Behind

Americans who support President Barack Obama and the Senate Gang of Eight’s amnesty proposal should take a hard look at California, especially the state’s public school system.

I’m a native Californian, born and raised in Los Angeles during the 1950s. Back then, Los Angeles had the nation’s highest percentage of Anglo-Saxon residents. During the half-century that’s passed since my youth, Los Angeles — and all of Southern California between Bakersfield and the U.S.-Mexico border — has been completely transformed. Los Angeles County is more than half Latino and represents one-third of the voters.

Nearly half of California’s births are Hispanic; 53 percent out of wedlock. In Los Angeles, the Hispanic birth total is 55 percent. The birth pattern, give or take a few percentage points, has been well established for decades. As the inevitable consequence, the most recent Census Bureau data put California’s Hispanic population (37.6 percent) at nearly equal to non-Hispanic whites (40 percent). During the decade from 2000-10, California’s Hispanic population grew by 28 percent.

California’s public schools have been severely impacted. Once considered America’s best, California’s K-12 system leads the nation in failing schools — and by a comfortable margin. Of the 15,277 schools eligible to receive a federal School Improvement Grant, 2,720 are in California. Even after allowing that California is the most populated state, it’s percentage of failing schools ranks in the top 5.  Only Mississippi did worse than California in basic reading skills. Not coincidentally, of California’s 6.2 million K-12 enrollments, 52 percent are Hispanic. Of the 1.3 million English Language Learners, 85 percent speak Spanish at home.

To help California’s struggling schools, Gov. Jerry Brown will allocate a significant portion of the new Proposition 30 taxes to districts with poor, non-English speaking students. Brown’s announcement left many school administrators from middle-class districts howling. For taxpayers, Prop. 30 represents a special tax to fund illegal immigrants and their citizen children.

California’s demographic sea change did not evolve naturally. Two immigration bills passed without voter input, the Immigration Act of 1965 and the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) plus a complete failure to enforce federal immigration law, led California to its precipice. Because of lax federal enforcement and special state entitlements for aliens, during the last five decades millions have migrated to California illegally.

Should this year’s amnesty pass, California will get more of the same. In 1986, then-President Ronald Reagan promised that the IRCA would be the last amnesty, that the border would be secured and that employer sanctions would be rigorously imposed on businesses that hired illegal immigrants. From day one, those promises were broken.

Now, Congress vows to do what it originally pledged in 1986. Don’t hold your breath. Instead, history proves that another amnesty would encourage more illegal immigration, an outcome that neither California nor America can afford. In 1986, Congress predicted that about 1.5 million aliens would receive amnesty. By the time the Immigration and Naturalization Service completed its paperwork, more than 3 million had green cards. If today’s estimated 11 million aliens double, as they did in 1986, the total could turn out to be 22 million. Nearly 3 million aliens live in California; by 2040, it might be 6 million.

The newly legalized aliens will instantly be given work permits, which will allow them to compete with 20 million unemployed/underemployed Americans for scarce jobs. They’ll automatically qualify for the Affordable Health Care Act and Social Security. The Washington, D.C-based Heritage Foundation estimates that within 20 years, amnesty’s cost will reach $3 trillion.

Social scientists often claim that trends which begin in California quickly sweep throughout the country. Amnesty would accelerate Hispanics’ growing demographic presence.

— Joe Guzzardi has written editorial columns — mostly about immigration and related social issues — since 1990 and is a senior writing fellow for Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS). He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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