Costs of Illegal Immigration to Texans

Federation for American Immigration Reform, April 2005

Analysis of the latest Census data indicates Texas’s illegal immigrant population is costing the state’s taxpayers more than $4.7 billion per year for education, medical care and incarceration. Even if the estimated tax contributions of illegal immigrant workers are subtracted, net outlays still amount to more than $3.7 billion per year. The annual fiscal burden amounts to about $725 per Texas household headed by a native-born resident.

This analysis looks specifically at the costs to the state for education, health care and incarceration resulting from illegal immigration. These three are the largest cost areas, and they are the same three areas analyzed in a 1994 study conducted by the Urban Institute, which provides a useful baseline for comparison ten years later. Other studies have been conducted in the interim, showing trends that support the conclusions of this report.

Other significant costs associated with illegal immigration exist, and these too should be taken into account by federal and state officials. Even without accounting for all of the numerous areas in which costs associated with illegal immigration are being incurred by Texas taxpayers, the program areas analyzed in this study indicate that the burden is substantial and that the costs are rapidly increasing.

The more than $4.7 billion in costs incurred by Texas taxpayers annually result from outlays in the following areas:

—Education. Based on estimates of the illegal immigrant population in Texas and documented costs of K-12 schooling, Texans spend more than $4 billion annually on education for illegal immigrant children and for their U.S.-born siblings. About 11.9 percent of the K-12 public school students in Texas are children of illegal aliens.

—Health Care. Taxpayer-funded medical outlays for health care provided to the state’s illegal alien population amount to about $520 million a year.

—Incarceration. The uncompensated cost of incarcerating illegal aliens in Texas’s state and county prisons amounts to about $150 million a year (not including local jail detention costs or related law enforcement and judicial expenditures or the monetary costs of the crimes that led to their incarceration).

State and local taxes paid by the unauthorized immigrant population go toward offsetting these costs, but they do not come near to matching the expenses. The total of such payments can generously be estimated at slightly less than $1 billion per year.

The fiscal costs of illegal immigration do not end with these three major cost areas. The total costs of illegal immigration to the state’s taxpayers would be considerably higher if other cost areas such as special English instruction, welfare programs used by the U.S.-born children of illegal aliens, or welfare benefits for American workers displaced by illegal alien workers were also calculated.

While the primary responsibility for combating illegal immigration rests with the federal government, there are many measures that state and local governments can take to combat the problem. Texans should not be expected to assume this already large and growing burden from illegal immigration simply because local businesses or other special interests benefit from being able to employ lower cost workers. The state could adopt measures to systematically collect information on illegal alien use of taxpayer-funded services and on where they are employed. Policies could then be pursued to hold employers financially accountable.

The state could also enter into a cooperative agreement with the federal government for training local law enforcement personnel in immigration law so illegal immigrants apprehended for breaking the law can be expeditiously turned over to the immigration authorities for removal from the country. Similarly, local officials who have adopted “sanctuary” measures that shield illegal aliens from being reported to the immigration authorities should be urged to repeal them.

Texas has also voluntarily adopted policies that add to the cost burdens of illegal immigration. While all states are compelled under a 1982 U.S. Supreme Court decision to provide a free K-12 education to all children, irrespective of their immigration status, they are under no obligation to subsidize education beyond that point. Nevertheless, the Texas legislature and Governor Perry have decided to grant in-state tuition benefits at public colleges and universities to illegal aliens.

It is unreasonable for a state to expect federal assistance to compensate for the fiscal burden of illegal immigration if it is pursuing policies that encourage illegal aliens to come and remain in the state.

Read the full report here.

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