Cost of Illegal Aliens in Va. Soars

Cheryl Chumley, InsideNoVa.com, June 26, 2009

A new study from a nonprofit group that wants tighter border security and immigration controls finds the costs of providing certain services to those in Virginia illegally is about $625 per household.

That number represents the costs per household after deducting for money illegal workers give to the state by way of tax revenues, the Federation for American Immigration Reform states in its report, “The Costs of Illegal Immigration to Virginians.”

On an annual basis, taxpayers in the commonwealth pay $1.7 billion per year to educate and provide medical care for illegal immigrants, as well as incarcerate those who break other laws, FAIR reports.

“These costs,” wrote report author Jack Martin, director of special projects, “are especially burdensome at a time when the state is confronting a major general fund budget deficit of $1.1 billion.”

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A hate group?

Perceptions of FAIR vary, and the group’s background and mission have been called into question on more than one occasion–even by Prince William County residents.

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But on its site, members note that FAIR was “declared a hate group” in 2008 by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a Montgomery, Ala., nonprofit civil rights law firm.

At the same time, the nonprofit Capital Research Center, a Washington, D.C., group that researches the backgrounds and sources of funding for other nonprofits and foundations, characterized the Southern Poverty Law Center in a 2006 report as an organization that “exaggerates the scope of racism in the United States to frighten donors into opening their wallets.”

Martin said FAIR has already received some negative feedback on its report.

“There already has been a response from the opposition in which they have taken issue with the costs of illegal immigrant children who are born in their country,” he said. “They say that you shouldn’t track those costs because the children are legal. Our answer to that is the costs wouldn’t have been generated if the parents hadn’t been here illegally.”

The bulk of the $1.7 billion reportedly goes toward schools. FAIR finds that Virginia tax dollars pay for the education of 95,000 children of illegal immigrants each year, for a total of $1.56 billion.

“Nearly 8 percent of the K-12 public school students in Virginia are children of illegal aliens,” according to the report, “and nearly three-fourths of them are in Northern Virginia public schools.”

The state pays for another $100 million each year for health care for illegal aliens, FAIR finds. And “the cost of incarcerating illegal aliens in Virginia’s state, county and independent city prisons amounts to more than $45 million a year,” the report continues.

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Virginia has a rapidly growing illegal alien population of about 295,000 persons, nearly tripling since 2000. Since 2000, the state’s foreign-born population has grown by 46.5 percent while its native-born population has grown by 6.5 percent. Similarly, public school enrollment of students who require special instruction in English has also soared, rising by nearly 175 percent over the last decade.

Virginia’s illegal alien population represents a major burden on the state’s taxpayers and on the state budget. These costs imposed on law-abiding Virginians are unfair and unwelcome even in the best of times, but are especially burdensome at a time when the state is confronting a major general fund budget deficit of $1.1 billion.

In 2008, the foreign-born population in Virginia represented nearly one in every nine residents (10.8%), and illegal aliens constitute about one-third (34%) of that immigrant population. Children with at least one immigrant parent accounted for 8.7 percent of the population in 1990, 13.2 percent in 2000, and 17.6 percent of children under age 18 in 2007.

Virginia’s illegal immigrant population costs the state’s taxpayers nearly $1.7 billion per year for education, medical care and incarceration. The annual fiscal burden amounts to about $625 per Virginia household headed by a native-born resident. Even if the estimated taxes collected from illegal immigrant workers are treated as an offset to this fiscal cost — which, as we explain later, makes little sense — net outlays still amount to about $1.5 billion per year.

This information fills a gap noted by the Governor’s Commission on Immigration, established in 2007. Its stated purpose was to study “. . .the costs and benefits of immigration on the Commonwealth. . .Specifically, . . .the impact of immigration on education, health care, law enforcement, local demands for services and the economy. . .” However, the Commission concluded in its January 2009 report that, “Unfortunately, the resources and time restrictions of the Commission were not conducive to a data analysis of this scope [referring to the Texas Comptroller’s Report on the fiscal impact of illegal aliens].” The Commission did, however, have the resources and time to obtain an estimate of the taxes paid by illegal aliens prepared by The Commonwealth Institute. These estimates showed $145 to $174 million in tax collections, but ignored the other side of the fiscal equation, i.e., the cost of state services used by the same population.

In addition to the fiscal cost estimates in this study, there are additional costs associated with illegal immigration that should be kept in mind by policymakers when they focus on this fiscal cost burden. Foreign remittances sent abroad by the illegal alien population also constitute a major drain on the state’s economy. The Inter-American Development Bank estimated that remittances from Virginia just to Latin America amounted to more than $1.1 billion in 2006. If this amount had been earned by American workers, it would have been spent locally, and it would have generated sales, production and jobs in the state as well as increased tax collection.

The nearly $1.7 billion dollars in costs incurred by Virginia taxpayers annually result from outlays in the following areas:

Education

Based on estimates of the illegal immigrant population in Virginia and documented costs of K-12 schooling, Virginians spend nearly $1.56 billion annually on education for about 95,000 children of illegal aliens. About 70,000 children of illegal aliens are in special English instruction classes, costing the taxpayer an estimated $440 million. Nearly eight percent of the K-12 public school students in Virginia are children of illegal aliens, and nearly three-fourths of them are in Northern Virginia public schools.

Health Care

Taxpayer-funded, unreimbursed medical outlays for health care provided to the state’s illegal alien population amount to nearly $100 million a year.

Incarceration

The cost of incarcerating illegal aliens in Virginia’s state, county, and independent city prisons amounts to more than $45 million a year — not including related law enforcement and judicial expenses or the monetary costs of the crimes that led to the incarceration.

Some state and local taxes are received from illegal immigrants — even from those working off the books. But, those same tax collections, or more likely an increased amount, would occur if the jobs were done by legal workers. So, unless it is assumed that no legal U.S. or immigrant or foreign guestworker would do the jobs now done by illegal workers, it makes little sense to consider this a true offset to the tax burden. The estimated amount of the taxes currently collected from the illegal workers is about $188 million per year.

The fiscal costs of illegal immigration to Virginia’s taxpayers do not end with these three major cost areas. They would be considerably higher if other cost areas such as assistance programs for needy families or welfare benefits for American workers displaced by illegal alien workers were included in the calculation.

Read the full pdf report here.

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