Follow the Money: The Cost of Illegal Immigration
Tijuana - San Diego Border
Immigration is a hot topic for both sides of the fence when it comes to taking a stand. Many believe that the United States should have no borders and allow whoever wants to come here the freedom to do so. Others believe that open borders allow those who have criminal backgrounds or ties to terrorist organizations free access to our country along with benefits like health care, education, housing assistance and food supplement and nutrition programs including supplemental income and welfare benefits.
On the one side, we face the ongoing cost of maintaining a secure border and of deporting those who are not in this country legally. On the other side, we see the humanitarian needs of those less fortunate who come to this country in search of a better life for themselves and their families.
This is a brief look at the issues along with a few of the related financial costs of immigration.
When the Europeans arrived, carrying germs which thrived in dense, semi-urban populations, the indigenous people of the Americas were effectively doomed. They had never experienced smallpox, measles or flu before, and the viruses tore through the continent, killing an estimated 90% of Native Americans.— Guns, Germs and Steel from PBS.org
Native American Indians
What about the Native Americans who were in North America before the Spaniards, French, Germans, Poles, Asians and Europeans who came and settled this land? There are many who say we stole the land from the American Indians that were here first. Of the million native tribal indigenous people who occupied this country, nearly 90% were wiped out by smallpox and other diseases that came with the early settlers.
Scientific evidence has been discovered that links all native tribes to a single gene pool with their ancestral roots originating in Asia. 1
DNA Studies of the bones of an early skeleton found in what is now Montana “clearly shows that the homeland of the first Americans was Asia,” says study coauthor Michael Waters. He’s a geologist and archaeologist at Texas A&M University in College Station. Two teams of scientific researchers come to similar but different conclusions.
Foreign Born Versus Native Born
Native born includes anyone who is a U.S. citizen at birth that is, born in the United States, born in Puerto Rico, born in a U.S. Island Area (e.g., Guam), born abroad of U.S. citizen parent(s) such as infants born to military parents serving at a foreign base like Germany, Japan, Guantanamo, or any of the 800 military bases in more than 70 countries.
Foreign born is defined as anyone who is not a U.S. citizen at birth which includes naturalized U.S. citizens, legal permanent residents, temporary migrants, humanitarian migrants and unauthorized migrants.
Children with at least one unauthorized immigrant parent made up 6.9% of students enrolled in kindergarten through 12th grade in 2012. Most (5.5% of all students) are U.S.-born children who are U.S. citizens at birth. The rest (1.4%) are unauthorized immigrants themselves.2
Studies show that the average cost of education per student in public elementary and secondary is around $12,296 per pupil although the cost varies per state. Twelve years of education would amount to a figure of $147,552 per pupil.
Direct Benefits and Income Related Benefits
Benefits for U.S. households take into consideration the cost of population based services like driving on public roads and highways, police and fire department services, access to parks and other community related services.
Benefits like cash, food, housing and medical services are provided which include over 80 different programs at a cost of nearly $900 billion taxpayer dollars per year. These are given to over 100 million Americans every year based on low-income status. This includes Medicaid, food stamps, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, public housing and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.
The United States Census Bureau Reports that the labor force participation of adults above the age of twenty-five who are foreign born, is sixty-nine (69%) percent. This follows that thirty-one percent are not counted in the population of workers who pay income tax.
"According to the Department of Homeland Security, in 2012, there were 484,072 new, legal entries into the United States, as the Migration Policy Institute indicates. However, this number does not include illegal immigrants. Statistics estimate around 11.5 million illegal immigrants reside in the U.S. today." 4
"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 for 11.5 million immigrants who are in this country already 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." 3
Labor Force Participation
What are the Rules on Immigration?
The rules of immigration are very complex. "Immigration to the United States is based upon the following principles: the reunification of families, admitting immigrants with skills that are valuable to the U.S. economy, protecting refugees, and promoting diversity." 5
"As of 2015, the Immigration and Naturalization Act, the body of laws that guide U.S. immigration policy, limits the maximum annual number of permanent immigrants to 675,000 people, states the American Immigration Council. The president and Congress determine yearly numerical admission limits for refugees." 6
What is Transfer Income?
How much does the average household pay in total federal taxes compared to the total amount of federal transfer income they receive? How much do families get back in federal spending relative to the taxes they pay?
Looking at the population as divided into five groups based on income, or quintiles, according to The Congressional Budget Office tables, over sixty percent (60%) of households "received more in transfer income than they paid in all federal taxes." 7
What is transfer income? Although many lower income households pay taxes on consumable products like cigarettes, gasoline, alcohol and payroll taxes, money received from the government in the form of benefits often exceeds the amount paid in the form of taxes.
According to the Tax Foundation, the nation’s leading independent tax policy research organization, studies indicate that the "first three quintiles including the middle class all received more in transfer income than they paid in all federal taxes, while the fourth quintile was virtually at parity. Only the top quintile paid substantially far more in total taxes than they got back in transfer income." This study was done in 2009. Since that time the numbers have grown.
What are Remittances?
Remittances are the dollars that workers sent to their home country when working in a foreign country. Workers from Mexico support the Mexican government in their remissions of U.S. dollars that leave this country and move into the economy of other places.
"Remittances in Mexico increased to $2,362,910,000 U.S. Dollars in November 2016, up from $2,216,430,000 in October 2016." These figures are up from years past with a record low amount of remittances in 1995 of $248,060,000 to a record high of $2,637,710,000 in October of 2008." 8
There are many opinions on immigration and of the proper solution to the issue of people who enter a country in violation of the established laws for entry. There are consequences for those who enter foreign countries in most every instance.
According to the President of Mexico, under Mexican law, illegal immigration is a felony, punishable by up to two years in prison. Immigrants who are deported and attempt to re-enter can be imprisoned for 10 years. The link takes you to a conversation where he explains that although he claims the law was changed last year, these laws are still enforced.
If a prosperous country opens its borders to anyone who wants to come here what would be the end result? Should your tax dollars be given to someone else as supplemental income? These questions on the issue on immigration reform are driven by the current set of laws and regulations on the books. Should these laws be changed?
U.S. - Mexico Nogales Border
Notes and Sources
- Science News for Students, Native Americans Origins, Tina H. Saey, Feb 8 2014
- Pew Research Center, Hispanic Trends, Nov. 18,, 2014, J. Passel and D. Cohn
- National Center for Education Statistics, Cost of education per pupil, Fast Facts
- The Association of Mature American Citizens AMAC, September 17, 2016
- Rules of Immigration
- Reference, Government and Politics, Immigration
- U.S. Census Bureau Foreign Born Population Statistics, 1960 to 2010
- Tax Foundation, Scott A. Hodge, October 4, 2012, Transfer Income
- Trading Economics Report, Mexico Remittances
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2017 Peg Cole