7 replies on “illegals”

  1. The short answer to your question is: yes.

    Here is a longer answer:

    Under current law as it applies to Massachusetts state funded public housing, housing units are awarded based on need. Immigration status is not checked. You can read more here

    While I have been troubled by the possibility that a unit might go to a new arrival and so deprive a long time resident of a unit, I have not so far voted to change the policy. The idea that public housing should go to people in most need does make sense.

    The way I look at the problem, our real goal should be to expand the supply of affordable housing.

    1. Will, regarding the better plan of creating more affordable housing, how exactly is that supposed to work? When I look at Belmont from the POV of how much public good could we provide with this town (given our location, given quality of schools, etc), the greatest public good would be to increase the population — shorter commutes, bicycle commutes, transit commutes, and even the reverse commutes are all better. Kids moving into town would get a great education.

      BUT — even ignoring the fact that we are almost entirely built up and also generally zoned against greater density — it would be a catastrophe for our schools, mostly because of rules set in place at the state level. Year-in, year-out, our reliable funding comes form property taxes, and over long periods of time those aren’t keeping pace with what ought to be rising wages (Baumol’s cost disease). With property taxes funding so much of town services, each new person is a net burden on existing residents because the small amount of commercial tax base is stretched even thinner. And the schools themselves — built as large as the state would allow to receive a subsidy — are full.

      And really building affordable housing, in quantities large enough to make a difference, would almost by definition cut the scarcity-inflated values of existing homes in communities with good schools and/or good commutes. How do we build a constituency for that?

      1. There isn’t much of a constituency for it and that is why it isn’t happening on any where near the scale it needs to.

        The more aware I become of the scale of the need though, the more I think that is a public policy tragedy.

  2. Will,

    The implication of your answer is that you don’t think a person’s immigration status (here with a proper visa or not) shouldn’t be a factor in receiving state provided subsidies.

    If that’s the case, how do you justify the position?

  3. It’s an equal protection issue. The phrase “illegal alien” suggests something other than a human being — something one might find in outer space. In fact, of course, we are talking about real people.

    The Supreme Court of the United States has rejected the idea that a person with a documentation problem has no rights at all. See Plyer v. Doe, which held that immigrant children cannot be excluded from the schools. The court has not reached the same conclusion with respect to housing, but it’s one of those constitutional jump balls that depends on the composition of the court.

  4. Will,

    First, the term “alien” is primarily defined as a person from a foreign country. All the rest of government, including the US Immigration Service, uses the term for that purpose. I purposefully avoided “illegal” in that context because I understand the argument that actions are illegal, not people. So please, lets not try to redefine terms to suit agendas. It’s unbecoming.

    Anyway, yes, SCOTUS has determined that people have rights regardless of their immigration status (although the MA Supreme Judicial Court did all they could to prevent even green card holders from exercising 2A rights, but that’s an aside).

    However, does every person have a *right* to all forms of government benefits? I’m a citizen by birth and I certainly can’t get any government benefit I want. Further, where do you draw the line? As I said before, it seems you don’t think a person’s immigration status should be considered at all when doling out government benefits. Is that correct? If so, why would a person follow the rules at all and why have the rules at all if that’s the case?

    I’m not asking about what the courts say though and this isn’t an issue to be solely decided by the courts. This is an issue to be decided by the legislature because there’s a real issue of cost involved and you’re avoiding it. Courts for the most part don’t decide how to allocate tax revenue. Legislatures do.

  5. I certainly draw the line at voting — that’s the heart of citizenship. Only citizens should be able to vote.

    As to benefits, I really think we are all better off if we don’t have too many people out in the cold. Our immigration policy is a federal problem. If a person is here in Massachusetts, I tend to want to do as much as I can to see them integrated into our economy. We do confront this issue repeatedly in the legislature and we’ve drawn the line in different places on different benefits. It’s not a clean and simple issue.

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