A U.S. Customs and Border Protection bike patrol agent assists Mexicans being returned to Mexico after they were apprehended for entering the United States illegally in Nogales, Ariz. San Diego resident Nancy Parker says the costs of undocumented immigration outweigh the benefits. - 

Tess Vigeland: This week as part of our election coverage, The Real Economy, we're hearing from people across the country about the issues that matter most to them.

Today, San Diego resident Nancy Parker argues illegal immigration hurts the economy -- more than helps it.

Nancy Parker: It's time we did something about illegal immigration in the United States.

I always hear talk about the economic benefits of illegal immigration -- cheap labor and all -- but it also has economic costs nobody seems to mention.

Many who work here illegally don't keep the money they earn in this country. Instead, they send it off to relatives in their home countries. It's a drain of resources that doesn't do anything for economic growth here.
A lot of the work they do is off the books, so many aren't even paying taxes. Yet they're still using free health care, food stamps and other services meant for low-income and senior citizens.

I am not anti-immigrant. I understand why people would risk their lives to come to this country. But we need to have compassion for our own people who are being denied services that are going to illegals.

And it's not just services, it's jobs also. I'm always hearing illegal immigrants are doing work nobody else wants to do. Try telling that to someone who's been out of work for three years. I know a lot of Americans who'd be just fine working in the construction industry.

Lately, we're hearing a lot about the income gap. Well, maybe one of the reasons poor Americans aren't making as much is because illegals in this country are willing to work for even less.

And what about the direct cost of illegal immigration: all the law enforcement, detention and deportation has to add up to something. Just think of where else we could be using that money.

At the end of the day, illegal immigration is just plain wrong. Make all the excuses you want, they've broken the law. If we went to their countries without immigrating through proper channels, we'd be tossed out on our ear immediately.

Vigeland: Nancy Parker is a retiree living in San Diego. Let us know what issues are most important to you this election year -- write to us.