Lawmaker’s reasons for promoting anti-illegal immigration bills are dubious at best

May 15, 2009

Illegal immigrants a drag on state, lawmakers says
By Patrick McGee
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Thursday, June 21, 2007

Oklahoma’s tough anti-illegal immigration law starts with the assertion that illegal immigration is causing an economic hardship in the state.

The bill’s author, state Rep. Randy Terrill, R-Moore, said he stands by that and believes that economists’ claims that illegal immigrants’ labor helps the economy is a “bunch of baloney.”

Some of what he offers as facts, however, can be challenged.


Terrill’s assertion: Three state government studies found that illegal immigration is a drain on the Oklahoma economy.

Facts: Two of the studies were never published. The one published study, a report from the Oklahoma Senate, had numerous findings that contradict Terrill’s assertions. The report, for example, said that more than 99 percent of welfare benefits were going to citizens, not illegal immigrants.

Terrill’s response: The Senate task force was dominated by Democrats, and their report was “discredited as a sham.” Terrill questioned the 99 percent figure and said that the state agency that reported it, the Department of Human Services, is under investigation by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for giving food stamps to illegal immigrants. Two Agriculture Department spokeswomen said there is no such investigation.


Terrill’s assertion: The Oklahoma Hospital Association reported that more than $500 million was spent on illegal immigrants’ healthcare.

Facts: Hospital Association spokeswoman Susie Wallace said the $500 million represents uninsured and underinsured patients, charity care and bad debt in 2005. The association doesn’t know how many of those patients were illegal immigrants. The Senate report found that illegal immigrants comprise less than 1 percent of the state’s Medicaid claims in both dollars and number of people served.

Terrill’s Response: Terrill said that he misspoke about the half billion dollar figure, but still believes illegal immigrants cost Oklahoma much more money than is reported because “they tend to overutilize emergency room care.” He said much of the testimony before a House committee supports his claims. None of it was published in any House report.