There are also increasing concerns over the means of infrastructure and communication. The problems facing Texas transportation infrastructure are immense and growing; freeways, bridges, railroad tracks, and mass transit (where available) are all deteriorating. In recent decades, traffic has grown much faster than highway capacity. The number of registered vehicles will approach 23 million by 2020 — a nearly 60 percent increase. An additional 100,000 lane-miles of highways will need to be constructed just to keep pace with the state's population growth.
In the fifty-year period between 1937 and 1987, the total mileage of public streets and roads in Texas increased by less than 90,000 miles, from 204,000 in 1937 to 294,000 in 1987. On the other hand, in the 40-year period between 1947 and 1987, the number of vehicles registered in the state increased from just over two million to almost 14 million; and the amount of motor fuel consumed in the state has increased from just less than two billion gallons to more than ten billion gallons per year. As a matter of fact it will be virtually impossible for enough new highway miles to be constructed to keep pace with population growth.
This is particularly true as suburbs are extended farther and farther away from the central cities to accommodate the burgeoning population. The result is sprawl, choked highways and increased traffic congestion. Yet inadequate transportation infrastructure stifles economic growth by increasing the costs of moving people and goods from one place to another. Researches show that during 1990s, there were 85 automobiles and small trucks per 100 people, well above the national average of 75 per 100 people.
Assuming that this ratio remains constant, by 2020 the number of registered vehicles will approach 23 million compared to 14. 5 million in 1990. An additional 100,000 lane-miles of Texas state highways will need to be constructed just to keep pace with the state's population growth. Will the state be able to build and maintain the highway system necessary to accommodate an additional 8. 5 million vehicles? The state transit system can also be anticipated to remain a busy one. With such an increase in population growth the case may be that accessibility of the system is reduced.
All levels of government are under pressure to catch up with the needs of growing numbers, and all too often fail to maintain the systems that were built in the past or to improve them for the future. Not just on the infrastructure but another impact of immigration and population growth is on crime and prisons. The serious-crime rate for Texas is about 25 percent higher than that for the states otherwise. Currently there are about 50,000 people in Texas prisons, among whom the Department of Corrections identifies some 4,000 as foreign-born non-citizens.
The total rate of imprisonment amounts to about 270 per 100,000 persons. If this rate remains the same, some 24,000 additional prisoners will need to be housed by 2020. That additional expenditure must be added to school, highway and other infrastructure construction costs. A matter to consider further is the fiscal impact of immigration. In addition to the costs mentioned above that apply equally to legal and illegal aliens; legal immigrants are entitled to the benefits of our national social safety net.
Some segments of the immigrant population tend to use those services more than the national average. The case for refugees, who immediately become eligible for food stamps and other welfare programs upon arrival, are the most likely immigrants to be dependent on welfare. There may be uncertainty about the magnitude of the costs involved, because there is no single agreed methodology for calculating them, but there is little doubt that illegal immigration and refugee programs represent a net drain on the state's budget.
It can be said that illegal immigrants are enjoying the fruit of the recent great American robust economy. This is true while many Americans are benefiting from a robust economy, government data shows that record numbers of Americans are falling into poverty in spite of overall good economic conditions and in spite of 45 years of record government spending on social programs. This down slide can be directly linked to illegal immigrants flooding the low scale job market practically importing poverty faster than it can be irradiated.
Had there not been any massive illegal colonization in the past 20 years, poverty in much of America may well have been reduced significantly. Immigration also takes away rights of many households and has played a key role in this booming school enrollment. Throughout Texas, the impact of massive immigration is being keenly felt on school budgets. Furthermore, in 1982, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Plyler v. Doe that Texas schools must educate all children between the ages of 5 and 17 living within a school district, regardless of immigration status.
This further exacerbates an already difficult and expensive situation. A recent story in the San Antonio Express-News notes that thousands of Mexican students illegally attend Texas border schools at a cost of more than $26 million. In Brownsville, up to 5,000 of the 37,000 students are non-resident aliens. It is estimated that the cost to educate these Mexican students, based on average Texas Education Agency per-pupil expenditures, includes about $12. 6 million in local funds, $10. 5 million in state funds and $3.35 million in federal aid.
For a number of years the Texas Assessment of Basic Skills (TABS) program has measured the level of mathematical and reading skills among students in grades 3, 5 and 9. While there is evidence of some narrowing of differences among ethnic groups, Blacks and Hispanics still score behind Whites. (Asians are not included in the analyses because of their small numbers. ) Clearly, considerable work and resources are needed if parity among ethnic groups is to be attained.
Unless this occurs, the overall quality of the Texas workforce of the future will decline as the share of its population that is Black or Hispanic grows. The increasingly multilingual school-age population poses additional financial problems for the state and would require additional expensive bilingual educational programs; it costs an average of 50% more to educate a non-English-speaking child. A proposal can be issuing California driver's licenses to illegal aliens will make our roads safer because they would be trained to drive safely and would have insurance.
Giving illegal aliens a driver's licenses will only make enforcement of our immigrant laws more difficult that is it would make it harder to detect them. It also "throws in the towel" and sends the wrong message to illegal aliens that they can change the law by breaking the law. Society must assume that anyone who would break the law and drive without a license would continue to break driving and other laws even if they were licensed and most would not be any safer drivers.