Money / Politics

How Much Does Illegal Immigration Cost You?

Immigration Razor Wire - AMACUnlawful Immigration and Amnesty

Current unlawful immigration can pose large fiscal costs for U.S. taxpayers. Government provides four types of benefits and services that are relevant to this issue:

  • Direct benefits – These include Social Security, Medicare, unemployment insurance, and workers’ compensation.
  • Means-tested welfare benefits – There are over 80 of these programs which, at a cost of nearly $900 billion per year, provide cash, food, housing, medical, and other services to roughly 100 million low-income Americans. Major programs include Medicaid, food stamps, the refundable Earned Income Tax Credit, public housing, Supplemental Security Income, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.
  • Public education – At a cost of $12,300 per pupil per year, these services are largely free or heavily subsidized for low-income parents.
  • Population-based services – Police, fire, highways, parks, and similar services, as the National Academy of Sciences determined in its study of the fiscal costs of immigration, generally have to expand as new immigrants enter a community; someone has to bear the cost of that expansion.

The cost of these governmental services is far larger than many people imagine. For example, in 2010, the average U.S. household received $31,584 in government benefits and services in these four categories.

The governmental system is highly redistributive. Well-educated households tend to be net tax contributors: The taxes they pay exceed the direct and means-tested benefits, education, and population-based services they receive. For example, in 2010, in the whole U.S. population, households with college-educated heads, on average, received $24,839 in government benefits while paying $54,089 in taxes. The average college-educated household thus generated a fiscal surplus of $29,250 that government used to finance benefits for other households.

Other households are net tax consumers: The benefits they receive exceed the taxes they pay. These households generate a “fiscal deficit” that must be financed by taxes from other households or by government borrowing. For example, in 2010, in the U.S. population as a whole, households headed by persons without a high school degree, on average, received $46,582 in government benefits while paying only $11,469 in taxes. This generated an average fiscal deficit (benefits received minus taxes paid) of $35,113.

The high deficits of poorly educated households are important in the amnesty debate because the typical unlawful immigrant has only a 10th-grade education. Half of unlawful immigrant households are headed by an individual with less than a high school degree, and another 25 percent of household heads have only a high school degree.

Some argue that the deficit figures for poorly educated households in the general population are not relevant for immigrants. Many believe, for example, that lawful immigrants use little welfare. In reality, lawful immigrant households receive significantly more welfare, on average, than U.S.-born households. Overall, the fiscal deficits or surpluses for lawful immigrant households are the same as or higher than those for U.S.-born households with the same education level. Poorly educated households, whether immigrant or U.S.-born, receive far more in government benefits than they pay in taxes.

In contrast to lawful immigrants, unlawful immigrants at present do not have access to means-tested welfare, Social Security, or Medicare. This does not mean, however, that they do not receive government benefits and services. Children in unlawful immigrant households receive heavily subsidized public education. Many unlawful immigrants have U.S.-born children; these children are currently eligible for the full range of government welfare and medical benefits. And, of course, when unlawful immigrants live in a community, they use roads, parks, sewers, police, and fire protection; these services must expand to cover the added population or there will be “congestion” effects that lead to a decline in service quality.

In 2010, the average unlawful immigrant household received around $24,721 in government benefits and services while paying some $10,334 in taxes. This generated an average annual fiscal deficit (benefits received minus taxes paid) of around $14,387 per household. This cost had to be borne by U.S. taxpayers. Amnesty would provide unlawful households with access to over 80 means-tested welfare programs, Obamacare, Social Security, and Medicare. The fiscal deficit for each household would soar.

If enacted, amnesty would be implemented in phases. During the first or interim phase (which is likely to last 13 years), unlawful immigrants would be given lawful status but would be denied access to means-tested welfare and Obamacare. Most analysts assume that roughly half of unlawful immigrants work “off the books” and therefore do not pay income or FICA taxes. During the interim phase, these “off the books” workers would have a strong incentive to move to “on the books” employment. In addition, their wages would likely go up as they sought jobs in a more open environment. As a result, during the interim period, tax payments would rise and the average fiscal deficit among former unlawful immigrant households would fall.

After 13 years, unlawful immigrants would become eligible for means-tested welfare and Obamacare. At that point or shortly thereafter, former unlawful immigrant households would likely begin to receive government benefits at the same rate as lawful immigrant households of the same education level. As a result, government spending and fiscal deficits would increase dramatically.

The final phase of amnesty is retirement. Unlawful immigrants are not currently eligible for Social Security and Medicare, but under amnesty they would become so. The cost of this change would be very large indeed.

Immigration Map - AMAC


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4 years ago

A man robbed a bank (because his family was hungry) and as he drove away he was apprehended by the Police. The judge let him go and allowed him to keep the money and the robbery was deleted from his record. Does that sound realistic? Does that sound right? Allowing illegals to not pay for their criminal act and allowing them to even gain for it is a complete fracture of our values and system. It is atrocious and all of them need to be sent back to their country of origin ASAP. Splitting up families? YES it’s not our… Read more »

4 years ago

Ryan, you seem to be in favor of illegal immigration. I will change my opinion to yours if you will leave the doors to your home open all the time and be the sole support of all the illegals who come into your house and expect to stay forever. The illegals will even get together and protest if you try to evict them! And if the other LEGAL RESIDENTS in your home object to supporting them, they have no choice but to contribute. Did you find any misspelled words etc. in this comment?

Marla Esposito
4 years ago

Just wanted to comment: no matter how generous a person is.. or a Nation… at some point… it will all IMPLODE when you have only 1/2 or less of the population “giving”….. and the other 1/2 “taking”…… 50+ yrs ago… immigrants came in from Germany, Italy, Yugoslavia ect with STRONG skills and a work ethic. They came from oppression and GAVE hugely back to our society. My jeweler is from Japan – amazing work… my cobbler is from Yugoslavia – has performed miracles with my shoes….. I’m not against immigrants coming into US.. it’s those that come to TAKE….. rather… Read more »

Cindy Rockwell
4 years ago

I think it sucks that illegals get any help at all from our government. We now can see why they think America is great just the way it is. He’ll their not even in trouble for committing a federal crime by being in our country and they have the balls to announce to anyone at anytime that their UNDOCUMENTED. THEY GET AWAY WITH BURNING OUR COUNTRIES FLAG AS THEY PARADE AROUND DISPLAYING THEIR COUNTRIES FLAG. now I find out that the U.S is paying for Mexico infrastructure update and were in debt up our rears for doing so. This is… Read more »

Rod Taylor
5 years ago

I would like to know why is it that the illegal aliens can come out and protest our immigration laws or appear on tv ,ie: the ones being shown meeting the pope in Washington DC, and not be arrested on the spot. Illegal is illegal no matter what the crime. they are ruining this country! Get em out.

4 years ago

Until our own people are not homeless and starving.we should probably death with our own problems first. It’s really sad that people with 2 incomes can barely get by and we have to pay for illigal immigrants to sit on their butt and collect government funding that we are all working our butts off for and sacrificing time with our families.not fair and obama is taking away our rights as Americans to say our national anthem, this country is lost I just hope we can come back from all this one day.

frank nowak
4 years ago

There have only been three times since COLA was added to Social Security that we did not receive an increase. All three were under Obama. What do you think will happen to your Social Security increases due to COLA when all these illegal aliens and mid-eastern refugees start receiving their Social Security checks? Not to mention terrorism, crime, disease. Anyone but Hilary!!!!

4 years ago

When illegals come to this country, they break the law. So the first thing they have taught there family, it is ok to break American Laws. And that is where they start.

Kerry Brown
4 years ago

This is disgusting to an American worker (sickening) Anyone that doesn’t know Qbama isn’t trying to destroy the US is crazy as HELL.No one can tell me that it hasn’t gotten much worse since he took office. ( I can’t say got elected because I don’t believe we have that many fools in this country, I do not believe he is an American citizen. He is a muslim for sure. If something isn’t done soon they will rule this nation, If he hadn’t been black and had been on the republican ticket he would have been impeached with in 6… Read more »

John Smith
4 years ago

Until 1964 when congress let it expire, we had the bracero law. They would come to the States for the harvest or what have you, pay taxes and return to Mexico when the season was over. When congress didn’t renew the law and immigration wouldn’t let these people come back, their employers told them, if you find a way to come across the border, you’ll have your job waiting for you here. And they found a way. However, as the time passed by, it became harder and harder to sneak across. Confronted with the reality that now they had to… Read more »

J. Liebsch
4 years ago

I was surprised you didn’t include the extreme costs to the taxpayer for Homeland Security, U.S. Border protection, local & federal policing
to try to prevent the illegal immigrants from entering the U,S, & returning them, “IF” captured, not to mention the entry of illegal drugs, guns, etc.

5 years ago

who on this board believes that mexico has a great society? 100%?, 50%?, 25%?, 10? thats what i thought. more illegal immigrants enter this country than american babies are being born in a single day. and thats a fact, At this rate america we know of today has a litle to no chance. The America you KNOW and love today has probably no more than 30 years before its just like mexico. There are 1.7 million active VIOLENT gang members currently in the united states, and it is estimated that nearly ALL of them are illegally living here. I dont… Read more »

Joel Mrlk
4 years ago

It is the american people’s fault for all this bullshit happening you al want to talk your crap but don’t do anything you let’s the politicians both parties shit on all of you at least the illegals get out there and protest in numbers shame on you the American tax payer and citizens when they take over I will laugh my ass off I love America but I am only one person God help us all

Nancy Quinn
5 years ago

Illegal is ILLEGAL!!! The Dems want these people here as they will always vote Democrat to get “free stuff”!!! Well, I have got news for THEM!!! This country was not built on ‘FREE STUFF’!!! So….here’s what we DO fellow conservatives: We on the RIGHT WILL SECEDE from this “union” and elect our own conservative leader. We will have LOW TAXES which will allow us to spend more of our hard-earned $$$$$ on the economy!!! LET’S DO IT…..;NOW!!! LONG LIVE AMERICA!!!

Michael Richard Slattery
4 years ago

$900B/yr? Check your numbers. that’s 50% more than we spend on defense.

Common Sense
5 years ago

I wonder whether the costs of additional infrastructure to support the additional illegal immigrant population has been computed reasonably. Take California for example. How much will it cost the taxpayers of California for the hospital, transportation, electric power, water, sewer, school, law enforcement, and telecommunication infrastructure required of an additional 1 million illegal immigrants?

5 years ago

maybe we should all quit our jobs and go on welfare and let the illegals pay all the bills and unnecessary spending.

Joseph Hickman
3 years ago

Basic math, it doesn’t match… when the For father’s wrote the Constitution. They didn’t have a crystal ball to for see that a parasite country south would flood (yes contrary to p.c. liberals) un educated orphans of a backward misbegotten colony of Spain would release from their prison cells and point north and don’t come back

3 years ago

Let the people choose! From now on, there will be an option on your tax return for whether you support Illegal Immigrant or not. if you support Illegal Immigrant, Great! You will now be paying for the portion which will be use to support them. If you don’t, then you do not need to pay the tax which will be use to support Illegal Immigrant. The total expenses which will be use to support Illegal Immigrant will be SHARE between those who wants to support them. Now lets see how many of you want to do it.

HR Marriott
5 years ago

As a former INS Special Agent and US Dept of State Inspector (Criminal Investigator), I can attest to the damage that illegal immigration, amnesty, and unwarranted asylum cases are doing and will do to the United States. Taxpayer costs, criminal actions and behavior, lost US jobs and eastern-western hemisphere quota impact to “normal-legal ” I 485 immigrant applications for lawful permanent resident status. Everyone is adversely affected, and the politicized aims are transparent: many illegal aliens vote through what may become an ACORN Program for illegal aliens. Do not be fooled. The normal legal processes are being bypassed. Write and/or… Read more »

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