How often have you heard the argument that “illegal immigrants pay taxes too”?
It certainly is a true (and extremely misleading) statement – illegal immigrants paid approximately $12 billion in taxes last year. While the average person may hear “$12 billion” and think “that’s a lot!,” its pennies in the context of a federal government that will spend over $12 billion per day this year.
In fact, if all Americans paid taxes at the same rate illegal aliens did, the budget deficit would be at least quadruple what it is now. According to prior estimates of mine based off the size of the 2017 labor force, if we were to replace the entire labor force with illegal immigrants and have them pay all their taxes (including state and local) to the feds, the federal government would’ve collected approximately $240 billion in tax revenue in 2017, as opposed to the $3.3 trillion that the Federal government actually collected.
And that doesn’t even take into account the fact that the jobs illegals take would otherwise be filled by taxpaying Americans, 100% of which would be paying taxes, and likely at higher wages. One recent study found illegals impose a $30 billion annual cost in lost tax revenue, three times what they pay. In other words, illegals create a net $18 billion hole in paying their $10 billion in taxes.
Clearly, illegals are hardly paying their “fair share” (to borrow a liberal term). And that’s just one half of the equation – what illegals are paying into the pot.
Earlier in the week, a reader requested a cost analysis on how much illegal aliens cost taxpayers directly through social services – and it truly is a staggering figure.
Birthright Citizenship is the Biggest Cost of Illegal Immigration
The great libertarian economist Milton Friedman famously argued decades ago that illegal immigration was preferable to low-skilled legal immigration because illegals at least can’t apply for welfare benefits. It’s basically true in that illegals cannot apply for federal assistance (though Friedman overlooked the existence of welfare fraud), but the real major cost of illegal immigration is indirect; through their American-born, and thus legal-citizen children.
Education is the biggest cost. According to the Pew Research Center, from 1995 to 2012, the percentage of K-12 students with at least one undocumented immigrant parent rose from 3.2 to 6.9%. And according to a handful of studies, the cost to taxpayers to educate the children of illegals comes out to:
- $44.5 billion annually – The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, reported in 2010.
- $59 billion annually – Federal for American Immigration Reform, reported in 2016.
Both estimates were calculated by simply multiplying the number of students with illegal immigrant parents by the average cost of educating a child K-12. Clearly, the cost trend is rising.
Just as these legal children of illegal immigrants are entitled to a taxpayer-funded education, they’re also entitled to a whole host of welfare benefits, given that illegal immigrant families tend to earn incomes low enough to qualify for federal aid. While they don’t qualify for the aid themselves – their legal children do.
Unfortunately, the last time the Government Accountability Office (GAO) studied the cost of benefits to the children of illegals was in 1997, and only provided estimates for food stamps, so it’s hardly comprehensive. Since a lack of comparable unbiased literature exists, it is worth noting however that they found the cost of food stamps to illegal children at $1.75 billion (in 2018 inflation adjusted dollars) per year, and obviously that’s an understatement as illegal immigration has increased since ’97.
There was not enough data for the GAO to provide total cost estimates for housing assistance, but estimated an illegal household with a child would be eligible for $612 a month in benefits, compared to an average $112 food stamp benefit per child (both figures adjusted for 2018 dollars). In other words, the dollar figure for the cost of housing assistance likely significantly eclipses that of food stamps.
The solution here is simple: end birthright citizenship. Anyone telling you it’s justified by the Fourteenth Amendment simply doesn’t understand the history of the Amendment.
Another Overlooked Cost – Healthcare
The emergency room loophole guarantees that illegal immigrants will benefit from free healthcare at the taxpayer’s time. Despite federal regulations preventing taxpayer funding of Medicaid to illegals, Forbes healthcare analyst Chris Conover estimates that roughly 3.9 million illegal (uninsured) immigrants receive healthcare each year, costing the following in uncompensated care:
- $4.6 billion in health services paid for by federal tax dollars.
- $2.8 billion in health services paid for by state and local tax dollars.
- $3 billion in cost-shifting (charging legal citizens more to compensate for illegals).
- $1.5 billion in pro-bono care from physicians.
Adding in the implicit federal subsidies that nonprofit hospitals receive, among other indirect costs, that brings us to a total cost of $18.5 billion a year to taxpayers. None of this includes the cost of the legal children of illegals, who likely qualify for Medicaid.
In just this article alone I’ve identified at least $100 billion in direct or indirect costs resulting from illegal immigration, and there are costs I’m overlooking (such as the cost of law enforcement and imprisonment resulting from illegal immigrant criminals) since I’m only examining the costs of illegals immigration from the angle of benefits to illegals.
What could be funded by the massive cost of illegal immigration? At least one big beautiful border wall…. four to five times over.