Waving signs stating "Immigrants Pay Taxes" and "Gag Gallegly," about 75 people demonstrated outside the Chatsworth office of Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-Simi Valley) Wednesday to protest his efforts in Congress to deny citizenship to children born in the United States to illegal immigrants.
In legislation introduced in October, Gallegly proposed that only children born to mothers who are citizens or legal residents be granted citizenship. He said the measure would save taxpayers nationwide more than $5 billion annually in welfare, health care and other costs.
"Every nation in the world has certain restrictions as it relates to citizenship," Gallegly said in a telephone interview from Washington. He added that government spending for children of illegal immigrants in California is "bankrupting the state."
Several speakers who came from Ventura and Los Angeles counties accused Gallegly of trying to capitalize politically by falsely blaming U.S. economic problems on immigrants. The demonstrators said most immigrants work hard, pay taxes and are not an excessive drain on government services.
Referring to day laborers on Los Angeles street corners, Jorge Garcia, a board member of El Concilio del Condado de Ventura, a Latino-rights group, said: "They are not waiting around for someone from the Department of Social Services. They want to work."
"To suggest anything else is a lie and he knows it," Garcia said.
Gallegly said that last year in Los Angeles County, children of both illegal and legalized immigrants received $250 million in welfare payments, a figure he said is expected to grow to $1 billion by the end of the century.
Gallegly said heavy spending on health care for children of illegal residents is absorbing so much government money that children of U.S. citizens are being denied care.
But Linda Mitchell of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles cited a UCLA study indicating that Latinos receive less in welfare payments per capita than whites, African-Americans and Asians.
Gallegly said automatic U.S. citizenship for their children gives residents of other countries a strong incentive to migrate to the United States and that his legislation would remove that lure.
But Mitchell said even without welfare and other government benefits, poor people would continue to come to the United States from countries where economic conditions are far worse.