Mr. William Chip, a FAIR board member, responded to a recent Washington Post article by Michael Gerson about GOP campaigns’ strategies concerning illegal immigration through the following letter to the editor:

In his Oct. 28 op-ed, “ Fanning the flame on immigration,” Michael Gerson said that GOP campaigns that challenge the provision of subsidized education and medical benefits to illegal immigrants are “repellent” and that, in any event, it is economic opportunity, not government benefits, that are the “magnet” for illegal immigration. Mr. Gerson missed the point. These benefits may not be magnets for undocumented workers, but they are incentives for otherwise temporary workers to bring their families to this country and then stay put.

Before the 1970s, most illegal immigrants left their families at home, where the cost of living was much lower. The families were the “magnet” that eventually drew these migrants back home. After the Great Society’s expansion of public subsidies for health care and the Supreme Court’s 1982 decision opening public schools to children of illegal immigrants, the calculus changed.

I have no doubt that Mexicans love their kids as much as we Americans love ours. If public schooling and nonemergency medical care were unavailable to the children of undocumented workers, their parents would not bring them to this country in the first place.