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Recent statistics show that 240,000 Utah households receive state provided benefits such as food stamps, welfare, Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program. Of those households, 23,837, or ten percent, include at least one undocumented household member.

Technically, it is the citizen members of those households who qualify for the benefits and the dollar amounts are tied to income and the number of citizens in each home. State officials highlight that the citizens are receiving the benefits legally, but critics claim that undocumented residents may also be benefiting from the programs. They likely are benefiting and they should.

Those advocating for the return of undocumented residents to their homelands often overlook the fact that such policies will result in the splintering of blended families. The risk of that can push those blended families to avoid assistance they would otherwise receive because they want to avoid any chance that undocumented residents will be detected. Then when medical care or other assistance is needed, these people go to emergency rooms and other emergency assistance programs for lack of any other options. When that happens, who pays?

Insured people pay through higher health care costs because hospitals often have to write off the care provided to those who can’t pay and to offset that, costs rise for those who do pay. For other emergency services, we all pay through government funded programs or through funding of charitable programs. These unintended consequences suggest that we should leave the situation as it is, and even try to figure how to provide reasonable services for all undocumented residents. If we don’t, we all foot the bill through the back door.

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