Your taxpayer dollars are footing the spiraling costs of illegal immigration

Your taxpayer dollars are footing the spiraling costs of illegal immigration
© Getty Images

As the heated debate over funding the southern border wall rages on in Congress, President TrumpDonald John TrumpAlaska Republican Party cancels 2020 primary Ukrainian official denies Trump pressured president Trump goes after New York Times, Washington Post: 'They have gone totally CRAZY!!!!' MORE announced his intention to send illegal immigrants to sanctuary cities and states across the nation. Considering that a number of major locations, including New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and others have declared that they would not cooperate with immigration enforcement, the proposal seems like a rather logical one.

After all, if these cities decide to nullify federal law, there should be no issue in settling more illegal immigrants within their boundaries. But as clever as the proposal is, it also unveils a damaging policy gap and highlights the staggering costs that illegal immigration poses for state, local, and federal budgets. In short, illegal immigration burdens citizens, both native and immigrant, with immeasurable social and fiscal costs.

ADVERTISEMENT

Setting aside the legal and moral questions that shape immigration policy, there is a significant tax burden imposed on citizens and legal immigrants tied to a leaky border. President Trump made headlines last year for questioning the costs of illegal immigration. Our dutiful firefighters in the mainstream press fact checked each word and called his $250 billion figure an exaggeration. However, looking at the substance of his argument shows that he was likely on the mark.

The costs of illegal immigration are comprehensive. Even after deducting the $19 billion in taxes paid by illegal immigrants, the 12.5 million of them living in the country results in a $116 billion burden on the economy and taxpayers each year. About two-thirds of this amount is absorbed by local and state taxpayers, who are often the least unable to share the costs.

One of the major drivers of the increasing costs is the 4.2 million children of migrants, who automatically become American citizens. Taxpayers are indeed on the hook for over $45 billion in state and federal education spending annually, not to mention the added burden of increased social welfare dollars. Much of the almost $30 billion in medical and assistance funding is sparked by the fact that noncitizen families in the United States are twice as likely to receive welfare payments than native born families.

A full half of noncitizens receive Medicaid, compared to 23 percent of native born citizens, while almost half of noncitizens are on food stamps. Of particular concern is that noncitizens who stay in the long term are more likely to use these programs than those who just arrived. Half of new noncitizens receive welfare, but the figure jumps to a stunning 70 percent among those who have been in the United States for more than 10 years.

The threat to send illegal immigrants to sanctuary cities and states becomes clearer when looking at the local costs of poor border policy. Apart from making Cher an immigration hawk, the proposal underlines states like California, which has the highest burden related to its large noncitizen population. Home to 2.2 million illegal immigrants as of 2016, a full 15 percent of students are undocumented or have parents who are.

The total costs of education due to immigration will nearly double in the state over the next 50 years. Californians are saddled with $23 billion in tax dollars for services relating to the illegal population, which makes up more than 10 percent of the state budget. Californians pay 11 percent of their incomes in state and local taxes already. The additional burden imposed by illegal immigrants is $600 in costs to each citizen annually.

The institutional burden of illegal immigration also includes a crime rate four times higher than that of citizens. Of all federal prisoners, 26 percent are noncitizens, two-thirds of whom are in the United States illegally. Considering it costs the federal government $32,000 annually for each prisoner, the approximately 25,000 noncitizens in our prison system amounts to nearly $1 billion in expenses annually, not to mention the expenses of state correctional facilities and immigration enforcement.

The overall figures for border enforcement have skyrocketed as well. The number of border patrol agents has increased by almost five times over the last 25 years, and nearly doubled in the last 15 years. Meanwhile, the costs of protecting the southern border with Mexico has increased by nearly tenfold in the same period of 25 years to almost $4 billion annually. This does not even factor in the 43 percent of illegal immigrants who fail to show up to their scheduled court hearings following their detentions.

This is a financial crisis, and one that we allowed to happen. For all of the debate over wall funding, Americans should keep in mind that recurring costs due to illegal immigration well exceed the amount to build such a wall. When you notice your paycheck deductions or see our unsustainable government debt, consider how we allowed ourselves to get to this point.

Kristin Tate is a libertarian writer and author of “How Do I Tax Thee? A Field Guide to the Great American Rip-Off.” Follow her on Twitter @KristinBTate.