Report: Illegal immigrants cost U.S. $10B in '02
Citizen Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON - Illegal immigrants cost the federal government billions
of dollars more in services annually than they pay in taxes, according
to a report released today.
The report, prepared by the Center for Immigration Studies, found that illegal immigrants paid about $16 billion in federal taxes in 2002 but cost the federal government an estimated $26 billion in Medicaid expenses, free lunches, food stamps and other benefits.
The Center for Immigration Studies, based in Washington, is a research organization that advocates stricter policies to control immigration.
Its report also estimates that the annual federal budget deficit will balloon by an additional $29 billion if Congress approves legislation to legalize the nation's 8 million to 10 million illegal immigrants.
The report is certain to be cited by Republican lawmakers who oppose President Bush's plan to create a nationwide guest worker program that would grant illegal immigrants temporary permission to remain in the country.
Critics of the report say it is incomplete and biased by failing to account for contributions illegal immigrants and their children make to the U.S. economy.
"The report counts the cost of children of immigrants as if they are perpetually children, ignoring future taxes they will pay," said Dan Griswold, a trade and immigration expert at the Cato Institute, a Washington think tank that supports less restrictive immigration policies and a nationwide guest worker program.
Contrary to public perception, the costs of illegal immigration are attributable only to a small percentage of illegal immigrants, said Steven Camarota, the report's author and the center's research director. He said few illegal immigrants actually take advantage of most federal entitlement or welfare programs.
But illegal immigrants tend to earn the lowest wages and as a result pay little in taxes, he said. The money they cost the country also is attributable to services used by their children, Camarota said.
He argues that stricter enforcement of immigration laws would boost job prospects and wages of native-born workers and reduce the high federal cost of illegal immigration.
"The mere fact that employers want more workers, and foreigners wish to work in this country does not mean that Americans necessarily benefit from their coming," he said.
Griswold countered that other research shows that second- and third-generation immigrants - even those with lower skills - have a positive impact on the federal government's fiscal balance sheet.
He also argued that many U.S. industries - construction, meatpacking, retail, hotels, restaurants and other service-related businesses - depend on low-wage workers.
"Without these workers, these industries would grow less or move offshore and seriously damage our economy," he said.
ON THE WEB:
www.cis.org, Center for Immigration Studies
www.cato.org, Cato Institute
Cost of illegal immigration (In billions)
Treating uninsured patients: $2.2
Food assistance programs*: $1.9
Federal prisons and courts: $1.6
Federal aid to schools: $1.4
* Includes food stamps and school lunches
Source: Center for Immigration Studies