Should Immigrants in the United States Illegally Have Access to Social Services Such as Health Care and Public Education?

PRO (yes)

The US Department of Justice and the US Department of Education, in a May 8, 2014 joint letter to educators, stated:

"Under Federal law, State and local educational agencies… are required to provide all children with equal access to public education at the elementary and secondary level. Recently, we have become aware of student enrollment practices that may chill or discourage the participation, or lead to the exclusion, of students based on their or their parents' or guardians' actual or perceived citizenship or immigration status. These practices contravene Federal law. Both the United States Department of Justice and the United States Department of Education (Departments) write to remind you of the Federal obligation to provide equal educational opportunities to all children residing within your district and to offer our assistance in ensuring that you comply with the law."

May 8, 2014 - US Department of Justice (USDOJ) 

William J. Brennan, JD, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, in the June 15, 1982 majority opinion for Plyler v. Doe, available at the Legal Information Institute website, stated:

"Undocumented aliens cannot be treated as a suspect class, because their presence in this country in violation of federal law is not a 'constitutional irrelevancy.' …But more is involved in these cases than the abstract question whether § 21.031 [a Texas law that prevented undocumented immigrant children from attending public school] discriminates against a suspect class, or whether education is a fundamental right. Section 21.031 imposes a lifetime hardship on a discrete class of children not accountable for their disabling status. The stigma of illiteracy will mark them for the rest of their lives. By denying these children a basic education, we deny them the ability to live within the structure of our civic institutions, and foreclose any realistic possibility that they will contribute in even the smallest way to the progress of our Nation."

June 15, 1982 - William J. Brennan, Jr., JD 

Ricardo Lara, California State Senator, in a Dec. 1, 2014 statement, "Senator Ricardo Lara Introduces Health for All Act," available at, stated:

"'Access to health care is a human rights issue and until everyone is included, our work is unfinished. I look forward to working with a broad coalition of immigrant, health care and legislative advocates to achieve the goal of health for all in the coming year.'

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) specifically excluded undocumented immigrants from insurance coverage provided through the health care exchange known as Covered California. Because of that, over a million undocumented residents lack access to affordable coverage in California. Access to preventive care keeps people healthier by providing regular check-ups and screenings, and early diagnosis of health problems ensures those problems can be treated before they become overly expensive. By ensuring everyone has access to health care, we can improve the health of our entire community, limit the overcrowding of emergency rooms, and reduce the costs of healthcare in California."

Dec. 1, 2014 - Ricardo Lara 

Francine J. Lipman, MBA, LLM, Professor of Law at Chapman University School of Law, in a Nov. 28, 2007 email response to, wrote the following:

"Unauthorized workers are a critical component of our micro and macro economies today and in the projected next several decades as almost 78 million boomers prepare to retire and leave the work force. Unauthorized workers should have access to housing and any other goods and services that they choose to consume. In addition, unauthorized workers who must and do contribute to our tax revenues should benefit from social services to the same extent as similarly situated legal U.S. residents."

Nov. 28, 2007 - Francine J. Lipman, MBA, LLM 

Sheldon Rampton, Research Director at the Center for Media & Democracy, in a Nov. 30, 2007 email response to, provided the following:

"I think it is both unethical and impractical to attempt to deny them [immigrants in the United States illegally] access to public services. Some public services, such as bus transportation, subways, water utilities, or highways, are so widely used that denying service to illegal aliens would simply be impractical for cost reasons. Denying access to other public services hurts the entire community.

If an illegal alien is raped or robbed, I want that person to have access to police services because otherwise the person who committed that crime is less likely to be captured, which makes everyone -- legal and illegal alike -- less safe. Likewise, denying access to health care increases the risk of disease spreading to the entire community.

If someone is living in the United States -- legally or not -- it is in everyone's best interests to do what we can to ensure that they lead healthy and productive lives."

Nov. 30, 2007 - Sheldon Rampton 

Jeffrey T. Kullgren, MD, MPH (Master of Public Health), Clinical Fellow in Medicine at Harvard Medical School, in an Oct. 2003 American Journal of Public Health paper titled "Restrictions on Undocumented Immigrants’ Access to Health Services: The Public Health Implications of Welfare Reform," wrote:

"[L]imiting undocumented immigrants’ access to health services weakens efforts to fight the spread of communicable diseases among the general population... conditions such as tuberculosis are not always easily detected as communicable diseases.

In addition, many cases of infectious disease are identified not when symptoms manifest themselves but when patients seek medical care for other unrelated conditions. Consequently, identifying and treating communicable diseases in their earliest stages requires that undocumented immigrants be able to access services for all health conditions—not just those that have progressed to an emergency level or include symptoms of infectious disease—before others in the community are exposed...

Given the significant threats posed by limits on undocumented immigrants’ access to health services, the public health community should pursue a range of strategies to circumvent the barriers erected by the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996."

Oct. 2003 - Jeffrey T. Kullgren, MD, MPH 

B. Lindsay Lowell, PhD, Director of Policy Studies of the Institute for the Study of International Migration at Georgetown University, in a Nov. 26, 2007 email response to, stated:

"Illegal residents should have access to some public services, in particular education for their children and public health which benefits everyone."

Nov. 26, 2007 - B. Lindsay Lowell, PhD 

CON (no)

Genevieve Wood, Senior Fellow in Communications at the Heritage Foundation, in a Sep. 9, 2014 article, "Undocumented Children a Drain on U.S. Schools," available at, stated:

"Currently, the U.S. spends approximately $12,000 per year to educate each child in public school. And the influx of children who are in the country illegally further increases those costs. That's because more regular teachers have to be hired, and - because many students don't speak English - more bilingual teachers and resources have to be brought in as well.

According to the Federation for American Immigration Reform, as of 2009, taxpayers have spent over $440 million on English instruction classes for children - some of whom are here legally, some not - whose parents are in the U.S. illegally. Houston is one of several cities where a local school district has created schools specifically for such children - and all these children are eligible for free or reduced lunches under the federal school lunch program.

Needless to say, this puts a huge burden on local districts and states - many of which are already struggling to provide a good education for the children who live there legally."

Sep. 9, 2014 - Genevieve Wood 

Mary Fallin, Governor of Oklahoma, in an Aug. 4, 2014 statement, "Oklahomans Must Care for Oklahoma Children before Illegal Immigrants," available at, stated:

"On June 13, the first bus of illegal immigrant minors, aged 12-17, arrived at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. The state of Oklahoma was given no formal notice, and no chance to object…

I too want to help these children, and I certainly think they should be treated humanely and with dignity for the short time they stay in the U.S. I want them to live better lives. But, as governor, I have been entrusted with another responsibility: to help children right here in Oklahoma.

One in four Oklahoma children struggle with hunger. One in four will drop out of high school before graduating.

There are poor children in Tulsa, Oklahoma City, Guymon and McAlester. They need our attention and our help. There are children who will grow up being abused, being lead into drugs, who struggle with poverty, or who will be recruited by violent gangs right here in our home state.

It is wrong for the president to ask Oklahomans to divert their attention and limited resources away from our own children."

Aug. 4, 2014 - Mary Fallin 

Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) via spokesman Ira Mehlman, in a Nov. 13, 2015 statement to FoxNews, reprinted in the article, "As Calif Moves on Medicaid Expansion, Study Finds Half of Illegal Immigrants Qualify," available at, stated:

"This [a California law extending Medicaid benefits to undocumented immigrants] is a consequence of policies California has implemented over many years that have induced a lot of people to settle in California who will rely heavily on government services… These are the self-inflicted costs of essentially saying to people, 'come here and settle illegally and take advantage of us'… You would think the cost would damage the chances of it happening, but if you look at the way the California legislature has operated for the last 10-15 years, it seems even as they’re dealing with tight budgets and cutting services for other people, they keep coming up with new benefits for people who are in the country illegally."

Nov. 13, 2015 - Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) 

Joe Scarnati, Pennsylvania State Senator (R-Brockway), in a Summer 2007 letter titled "Scarnati to Illegal Aliens – NO MORE BENEFITS," from its Legislative Update website section, wrote:

Many states are enacting tougher immigration laws, and it’s time for Pennsylvania to follow suit and stop providing government benefits and services to the growing number of illegal aliens entering our country. Pennsylvania residents should not be asked to sacrifice their hard-earned dollars to support those who have entered this country illegally. That’s why I recently introduced legislation in the Senate [2007 Pennsylvania State Bill 9] that would prohibit illegal aliens who are living in Pennsylvania from receiving public benefits, including Medicaid, welfare and in-state college tuition and face tighter scrutiny when applying for services."

Summer 2007 - Joe Scarnati 

Richard Jones, MS, Sheriff of Butler County in Ohio, in a Dec. 6, 2007 email response to, responded:

No. For example, there are American senior citizens that should have these benefits and do not because illegal aliens are sucking the system dry. A 'sucking sound' that can be heard around the world. The more people of the world hear of free public services, the more they try to sneak in. This is one of the most important reasons to secure the borders. These services were meant for American citizens."

Dec. 6, 2007 - Richard K. Jones, MS 

Eugene A. Delgaudio, Sterling District Supervisor of Loudoun County, Virginia, in a July 17, 2007 News section retrived from his website titled "A New Beginning," offered the following:

"Illegal immigration is taking a greater and greater toll on this community... While lax federal and state enforcement allows the problem to develop, local government is also at fault when it rewards law-breakers with access to free taxpayer-funded services. Giving away free services to people whose very presence is a felony is unfair to people who obey the law. More and more of their own money goes to support lawbreakers and subsidized increasing problems of overcrowding, litter and gang crime. It's an insult to native-born taxpayers and taxpayers who took the time and effort to come here legally. We must be responsible, both fiscally and legally. That is why we are introducing this item [2007 Loudoun County Resolution ] to begin the process of legally terminating taxpayer-funded services to illegal aliens."

July 17, 2007 - Eugene A. Delgaudio 

The Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, in a public opinion syurvey conducted from Feb. 21-28, 2006 and titled "Illegal Immigration Worries Immigrant Descendants, Quinnipiac University National Poll Finds; Most U.S. Voters Say Cut Benefits," obtained the following results from 1,892 registered voters nationwide:

"Do you support or oppose requiring proof of legal residency in order to obtain government benefits?"

84% Support
14% Oppose
2% Do Not Know/Not Available

Feb. 21-28, 2006 - Quinnipiac University Polling Institute