LBJ and Illegal Immigration

As tens of thousands of illegal immigrant juveniles and mothers cross over into Texas and other states on the southern border, American voters are once again being reminded of the softness of the U.S. enforcement of immigration law. What is little understood is that this permissive policy on immigration is not being perpetrated by big business or agricultural interests, but by big cities and the Federal government.

The movement of illegal immigrants did not start overnight. While the illegal immigrant population of the U.S. exploded after 1990, there were several governmental actions that were crucial to its early development. These governmental actions were taken in response to the loss of population of the big cities of the Midwest and Northeast, the great majority of which were controlled by Democrats. And they, in turn, originated in actions taken by LBJ through his administrative initiatives of the 1960s.

By 1964, the biggest cities of the Midwest and Northeast were losing population. Even today many cities have lost one fourth to half of their populations and more. LBJ needed to bolster the population of the cities run by his party in order to preserve their number of Congressional Representatives, and to contribute to national election vote numbers.

After LBJ’s actions the growth in the illegal immigration population occurred very rapidly. In 1970, for example, the Census Bureau did not even include the term Hispanic in its Census form, yet from 1990 to 2000 the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population was the Hispanic segment, and Spanish is now required by Federal regulations to appear on all common product labels along with English. This amazingly rapid change was wholly pushed by Democrats acting through both local and Federal government. 

In order to understand LBJ’s contributions it’s necessary to have some historical background. For over one hundred years migrant workers went north to California, Texas, and other states. When their work was completed they migrated south back to their homes and families. 

In 1942, in order to free up agricultural workers for the war effort, the U.S. established a guest worker program for Mexicans and other Hispanics. This was the Bracero program. It was not established by an Act of Congress, but, in an action that became a precedent for today’s illegal governmental actions, was established by an agreement between FDR and the Mexican President Manuel Avila Camacho. Some critics note that today’s huge influx of illegal immigrant juveniles was instigated by a phone conversation between President Obama and Mexico’s President. This Bracero guest worker program was the origin of the idea that illegal Mexican immigrants are merely here to pick lettuce and other crops.

How the U.S. went from allowing legal migrant workers on the one hand, to promoting illegal immigration, is where the story becomes most interesting, and where LBJ played the most important role.   

Johnson and his Democratic Party saw two great flaws in the migrant worker program: guest workers could not vote or repopulate the cities. To correct this they needed to do two things: the first was to start a whole new set of Federally subsidized benefit programs, and the second was to cancel the Bracero program. These two actions virtually eliminated the legal migrant worker labor force and established a financial support system for the resettlement of illegal immigrants -- from all nations -- into the big cities. 

LBJ canceled the Bracero Program in 1964 and within months expanded benefits with the Great Society program. The Great Society was launched in a speech he gave at the U. of Michigan at Ann Arbor in 1964. In that speech President Johnson stated: “Our society will never be great until our cities are great. Today the frontier of imagination and innovation is inside these cities and not beyond their borders.”

When the Bracero program existed, migrant workers did not stay in the U.S. The reason they are able to afford to stay today is because they receive 25 benefits, from local, state, and Federal sources. And the list of benefits continues to grow. President Obama unilaterally established the Dream Act and some states now allow illegal immigrants to obtain drivers’ licenses, effectively enabling them to vote. I have estimated that a Mexican family in Chicago is given at least $80,000 per year in state, local, and Federal benefits and the amount grows constantly. 

To this day the myth is perpetrated that illegal immigrants are here to pick lettuce and other crops, a remnant of the valid reason for the Bracero program. But Chicago, the first sanctuary city, does not have lettuce fields. The crops illegal immigrants are allegedly here to pick do not grow in the cities and urban areas where they have settled. 

The 1990s saw a flood of new benefits: the McKinney-Vento Act, which clearly states that migrant children fit the definition of homeless, are therefore entitled to a host of programs for the homeless. The unemployment money passed by Congress to help the states was necessary because illegal immigrants are paid in cash and so their employers do not pay into unemployment. They do not pay into social security or Medicare, hastening the financial collapse of those programs. And the list goes on. 

Anyone who attempts to claim that illegal immigrants, or undocumented -- the meaning is the same -- pay their own way is not confronting the seriousness of the issue. None of the studies or editorials I have seen claiming that illegal immigrants pay their own way include the high costs of education and health care. 

In Chicago, for example, 44% of public school students are Hispanic, and it costs property taxpayers $15,800 per year for each child. Mexican families have twice as many children as whites, and one more than black families, so it is difficult to understand how they are able to afford to pay, say, $15,800 per year to have a child in public school. These costs are picked up by the Federal government and passed onto to legal citizens of all races through higher taxes and county and state borrowing. 

No wonder Illinois, the most pro-illegal immigration state, has the highest unfunded pension liability, has seen its credit rating drop to where it is now only one step above junk bond status, and Chicago has an additional $20 billion in unfunded pension debt. It is no coincidence that the Chicago, the nation’s first official sanctuary city, has the worst financial situation of any big city. 

These costs, which are now causing property taxes, gasoline taxes, and education costs to skyrocket for all Americans, are caused to a significant degree by the expenses of illegal immigration. And the recent influx of illegal unaccompanied minors has already cost the nation billions in expenses as taxpayers are forced to provide $252 per day to each one.

It is not surprising that the U.S. has seen its credit rating drop for the first time in history while President Obama promotes the U.S. as a refuge for expensive illegal immigrant juveniles. These actions to flout U.S. Immigration Law and provide benefits have their roots in the actions of LBJ. 

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