Vice President Pence at border fence (DHS photo)
The move by Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf to openly work against the federal government’s attempt to apprehend illegal aliens has turned the debate about unlawful immigration into a constitutional crisis. As a result, one of the key issues motivating the national clash on this issue, the financial cost of allowing significant numbers of individuals into the nation without any checks or supervision, has unfortunately moved into the background.
Those favoring stricter border controls maintain that illegals are a drain on federal, state, and local budgets. Those opposed allege that the taxes they pay, in one form or another, offset the expenses.
One factor that is difficult to quantify is the fraudulent access to government benefits illegals occasionally obtain. The San Diego Union Tribune recently reported that a Mexican man assumed an American’s identity for 37 years, fraudulently obtaining $361,000 in government benefits. It is doubtful that this particular crime was an isolated case.
The larger question concerns the actual governmental costs incurred by illegals.
It is important to understand that much of the expenses are paid for by state and local governments. The Congressional Budget Office notes that “State and local governments incur costs for providing services to unauthorized immigrants and have limited options for avoiding or minimizing those costs. All of the estimates that CBO reviewed, regardless of the jurisdiction examined or programs considered, reached this conclusion. Rules governing many federal programs, as well as decisions handed down by various courts, limit the authority of state and local governments to avoid or constrain the costs of providing services to unauthorized immigrants. For example, both state and federal courts have ruled that states may not refuse to provide free public education to a student on the basis of his or her immigration status. Furthermore, many states have their own statutory or constitutional requirements concerning the provision of certain services to needy residents. The tax revenues that unauthorized immigrants generate for state and local governments do not offset the total cost of services provided to those immigrants. Most of the estimates found that even though unauthorized immigrants pay taxes and other fees to state and local jurisdictions, the resulting revenues offset only a portion of the costs incurred by those jurisdictions for providing services related to education, health care, and law enforcement.”
A study by the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIRUS) found that federal, state, and local levels, governments spend 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. The FAIRUS study noted that Federal Tax Receipts from Illegal Aliens totals only about $22.1 Billion. On the state and local level, a Forbes study found that households headed by illegal immigrants paid a combined $11.64 billion in state and local taxes during 2010. Therefore, the combined intake of taxes from illegals is approximately $33.3 billion, resulting in a net combined government loss of $101.16 billion.
FAIRUS also notes that “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.”
The proportion of public assistance provided to illegals is extraordinary. A Fox News study found that “Illegal immigrant families received nearly $1.3 billion in Los Angeles County welfare money during 2015 and 2016, nearly one-quarter of the amount spent on the county’s entire needy population.”
In some areas, illegals have more access to state benefits than most Americans. An illegal student residing in some states may be charged only resident rates at a state college, while a U.S. citizen from another state will be liable for full tuition.