A continually growing population of illegal aliens, along with the federal government’s ineffective efforts to secure our borders, present significant national security and public safety threats to the United States. They also have a severely negative impact on the nation’s taxpayers at the local, state, and national levels. Illegal immigration costs Americans billions of dollars each year. Illegal aliens are net consumers of taxpayer-funded services and the limited taxes paid by some segments of the illegal alien population are, in no way, significant enough to offset the growing financial burdens imposed on U.S. taxpayers by massive numbers of uninvited guests. This study examines the fiscal impact of illegal aliens as reflected in both federal and state budgets.
The Number of Illegal Immigrants in the US
Estimating the fiscal burden of illegal immigration on the U.S. taxpayer depends on the size and characteristics of the illegal alien population. FAIR defines “illegal alien” as anyone who entered the United States without authorization and anyone who unlawfully remains once his/her authorization has expired. Unfortunately, the U.S. government has no central database containing information on the citizenship status of everyone lawfully present in the United States. The overall problem of estimating the illegal alien population is further complicated by the fact that the majority of available sources on immigration status rely on self-reported data. Given that illegal aliens have a motive to lie about their immigration status, in order to avoid discovery, the accuracy of these statistics is dubious, at best. All of the foregoing issues make it very difficult to assess the current illegal alien population of the United States.
However, FAIR now estimates that there are approximately 12.5 million illegal alien residents. This number uses FAIR’s previous estimates but adjusts for suspected changes in levels of unlawful migration, based on information available from the Department of Homeland Security, data available from other federal and state government agencies, and other research studies completed by reliable think tanks, universities, and other research organizations.
The Cost of Illegal Immigration to the United States
At the federal, state, and local levels, taxpayers shell out approximately $134.9 billion to cover the costs incurred by the presence of more than 12.5 million illegal aliens, and about 4.2 million citizen children of illegal aliens. That amounts to a tax burden of approximately $8,075 per illegal alien family member and a total of $115,894,597,664. The total cost of illegal immigration to U.S. taxpayers is both staggering and crippling. In 2013, FAIR estimated the total cost to be approximately $113 billion. So, in under four years, the cost has risen nearly $3 billion. This is a disturbing and unsustainable trend. The sections below will break down and further explain these numbers at the federal, state, and local levels.
Total Governmental Expenditures on Illegal Aliens
Total Tax Contributions by Illegal Aliens
Total Economic Impact of Illegal Immigration
The Federal government spends a net amount of $45.8 billion on illegal aliens and their U.S.-born children. This amount includes expenditures for public education, medical care, justice enforcement initiatives, welfare programs and other miscellaneous costs. It also factors in the meager amount illegal aliens pay to the federal government in income, social security, Medicare and excise taxes.
The approximately $46 billion in federal expenditures attributable to illegal aliens is staggering. Assuming an illegal alien population of approximately 12.5 million illegal aliens and 4.2 million U.S.-born children of illegal aliens, that amounts to roughly $2,746 per illegal alien, per year. For the sake of comparison, the average American college student receives only $4,800 in federal student loans each year.
FAIR maintains that every concerned American citizen should be asking our government why, in a time of increasing costs and shrinking resources, is it spending such large amounts of money on individuals who have no right, nor authorization, to be in the United States? This is an especially important question in view of the fact that the illegal alien beneficiaries of American taxpayer largess offset very little of the enormous costs of their presence by the payment of taxes. Meanwhile, average Americans pay approximately 30% of their income in taxes.
Taxes collected from illegal aliens offset fiscal outlays and, therefore must be included in any examination of the cost of illegal immigration. However, illegal alien apologists frequently cite the allegedly large tax payments made by illegal aliens as a justification for their unlawful presence, and as a basis for offering them permanent legal status through a new amnesty, similar to the one enacted in 1986. That argument is nothing more than a red herring.
FAIR believes that most studies grossly overestimate both the taxes actually collected from illegal aliens and, more importantly, the amount of taxes actually paid by illegal aliens (i.e., the amount of money collected from illegal aliens and actually kept by the federal government). This belief is based on a number of factors: Since the 1990’s, the United States has focused on apprehending and removing criminal aliens. The majority of illegal aliens seeking employment in the United States have lived in an environment where they have little fear of deportation, even if discovered. This has created an environment where most illegal aliens are both able and willing to file tax returns. Because the vast majority of illegal aliens hold low-paying jobs, those who are subject to wage deductions actually wind up receiving a complete refund of all taxes paid, plus net payments made on the basis of tax credits.
As a result, illegal aliens actually profit from filing a tax return and, therefore, have a strong interest in doing so.