Opinion

Illegal immigration is a tax-dollar drain

President Obama and Congressional Democrats have been talking about giving amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants.  Tax Day seems like a good time to examine the impact that such a policy would have on your wallet.

Start with education.  Using the average annual American public school elementary and secondary education costs, the Federation for American Immigration Reform has estimated that the total cost of K-12 education for illegal immigrant minors and the U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants is $28.6 billion a year.

Then there’s health care. If illegal immigrants are covered in the health care bill (there is not a strong verification mechanism to ensure they won’t get benefits), it would increase the bill’s costs between $10-$30 billion. Of course, it won’t matter if illegal immigrants receive amnesty since the new law requires health care coverage for everyone.

Social Security is another area of great concern.  Claims by amnesty advocates that illegal immigration can “save” Social Security are false.

Last year, the Social Security Administration (SSA) ran the numbers at my request. Here’s what they found:  For a single 25-year old male with very low earnings, today’s value of his and his employer’s contributions to the Trust Fund will fall $15,596 short of the value of the Social Security retirement benefits he will eventually receive.  A single female will receive $20,936 more in benefits than she pays into Social Security.  If the immigrant is married but the sole wage-earner, the couple will eventually drain the Trust Fund by $52,460; if the immigrant is married to another very low earner, the drain on the trust fund will be $39,037.  The legalization of one million illegal immigrant couples who work for very low wages would be a $101 billion blow to taxpayers.  And amnesty for all illegal immigrants would multiply this figure many times!

When it comes to taxes, amnesty supporters like to say that illegal immigrants will pay their “fair share” of taxes after being granted amnesty.  This is deceptive.

Low-skilled workers often pay no taxes and receive a check from the Internal Revenue Service in the form of the Earned Income Tax Credit.  Putting illegal immigrants on the IRS rolls will actually cost the federal government money.

Since most illegal immigrants have less than a high school education and have well below average incomes, even those illegal immigrants who pay taxes pay far less in taxes than they (and their families) consume in taxpayer-supported benefits.  Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation found that the average immigrant household headed by an immigrant without a high school degree receives over $19,000 more in total government benefits each year than it pays in federal, state and local taxes!

But the impact goes far beyond these direct costs.

There are nearly 16 million Americans out of work, and about 8 million jobs are held by illegal immigrants. By simply enforcing immigration laws already on the books, we could create millions of job opportunities for American citizens and legal immigrants who played by the rules and entered the U.S. the right way.

Instead, the Obama administration has all but abandoned worksite enforcement efforts.  Administrative arrests are down 87 percent; criminal arrests of employees are down 83 percent; criminal arrests of employers are down 73 percent; the number of criminal indictments are down 86 percent; and the number of criminal convictions is down 83 percent since 2008.  This insults unemployed and underemployed American workers who need the jobs held by illegal immigrants.

The hit is on your wallet!  Illegal immigrants are a fiscal drain on American taxpayers.  And the Obama administration’s policies only make it worse.

Lamar Smith is the Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee.