Posted on September 17, 2008

Illegal Immigrants Are ‘Cheap Labor’ For Some, Costly To Rest

Richard D. Lamm, Greely (Colorado) Tribune, September 12, 2008

It is easy to see why illegal immigrants are attractive to employers. These are generally good, hardworking people who will quietly accept minimum wage (or below), don’t generally get health or other benefits, and if they complain they can be easily fired. For some employers it is an abused form of labor. Even minimum wage is attractive to workers from countries whose standard of living is a fraction of ours.

But that is not to say it is “cheap labor.” It may be “cheap” to those who pay the wages, but for the rest of us, it is clearly “subsidized” labor, as we taxpayers pick up the costs of education, health, and other municipal costs imposed by this work force.

That has become a substantial and growing cost as the nature of illegal immigration patterns has changed.

For decades illegal immigrants were single men who would come up from Mexico or Central America alone, pick crops or perform other low-paid physical labor and then go home. They were indeed “cheap labor.”

But starting in the 1960s these workers would either bring their families or smuggle them into the country later. They become a permanent or semi-permanent population living in the shadows but imposing immense municipal costs.


It is hard to get an exact profile of the people who live in the underground economy, but the average family of illegal immigrants has 2-4 school-age kids. It costs U.S. taxpayers more than $10,000 a child just to educate them in our public schools. Now, no minimum-wage workers, or even low-wage workers, pay anywhere near enough to pay for even one child in school. Even if they were paying all federal and state taxes, Colorado’s estimated 30,000 school-age children of workers illegally in the United States impose gargantuan costs on other taxpayers.


The health care cost of this “cheap” work force is also significant and subsidized by U.S. taxpayers. The total cost of this “subsidized” labor is impossible to ascertain and difficult to even estimate, but it is immense and growing as the number of these workers grows. A few benefit, many pay.

Americans pay in more ways than taxes. Cheap labor drives down wages as low income Americans are forced to compete against these admittedly hardworking people.