Last updated on: 10/5/2007 | Author:

Is Illegal Immigration an Economic Burden to America?

PRO (yes)


The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), a nonprofit organization pushing for immigration reform, posted the following position on its website, in a section entitled “The Estimated Cost of Illegal Immigration,” last updated in Feb. 2004:

“Illegal alien workers may increase profits for employers, but they are costly to the American taxpayer. Most illegal aliens have low educational attainment, few skills, and they work for low wages, often in the underground economy where they pay no taxes on their earnings… While the cost of outlays for illegal aliens may be shifted by legislation among the levels of government and the private sector, the fact remains that illegal immigration creates an enormous fiscal burden on America and its citizens – a burden that Congress has levied upon us through short-sighted and haphazard immigration policy and succeeding administrations have aggravated by spotty enforcement of the law.”

Feb. 2004


The Colorado Alliance for Immigration Reform (CAIR), a nonprofit organization concerned with immigration issues, in the section titled “Economic Costs of Legal and Illegal Immigration” on its website (accessed June 22, 2010), wrote the following:

“The economic and social consequences of illegal immigration… are staggering… Illegal aliens have cost billions of taxpayer-funded dollars for medical services. Dozens of hospitals in Texas, New Mexico Arizona, and California, have been forced to close or face bankruptcy because of federally-mandated programs requiring free emergency room services to illegal aliens. Taxpayers pay half-a-billion dollars per year incarcerating illegal alien criminals.

Immigration is a net drain on the economy; corporate interests reap the benefits of cheap labor, while taxpayers pay the infrastructural cost… $60 billion dollars are earned by illegal aliens in the U.S. each year. One of Mexico’s largest revenue streams (after exports and oil sales) consists of money sent home by legal immigrants and illegal aliens working in the U.S… This is a massive transfer of wealth from America – essentially from America’s displaced working poor – to Mexico. The total K-12 school expenditure for illegal immigrants costs the states $7.4 billion annually.”

Oct. 24, 2007


Jim Gilchrist, MBA, Founder and President of The Minuteman Project, in an Aug. 26, 2005 speech titled “The Crushing Economic Burden of Illegal Immigration” and delivered at an immigration conference in Beverly Hills, CA (transcript made available on Oct. 10, 2005 in the Front Page Magazine website), said:

“I’ve tried to figure out the costs since I have this tax background. What is the cost to each of us as taxpayers to support 30 million illegal aliens, many of whom are working in the underground economy and not contributing to the tax system? And yet they’re using the system that bona fide taxpayers provide and pay for… I had to make my own estimate, since the government will not give me these numbers, nor does it care to calculate them… I’ve come up with my own numbers. And I will stand by these numbers. The annual gross cost to U.S. taxpayers to provide schooling, hospitalization, and whatever plethoric benefits are out there for the 30 million illegal aliens is approximately $400 billion per year funded by bona fide US taxpayers. That’s $400 billion per year and going up.”

Aug. 26, 2005


Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele, Pulitzer Prize winning investigative journalists, wrote in their Sep. 20, 2004 special report on immigration titled “Who Left the Door Open?,” published in Time:

“Beyond the terrorism risks, Washington’s failure to control the nation’s borders has a painful impact on workers at the bottom of the ladder and, increasingly, those further up the income scale. The system holds down the pay of American workers and rewards the illegals and the businesses that hire them. It breeds anger and resentment among citizens who can’t understand why illegal aliens often receive government-funded health care, education benefits and subsidized housing.

In border communities, the masses of incoming illegals lay waste to the landscape and create costly burdens for agencies trying to keep public order. Moreover, the system makes a mockery of the US tradition of encouraging legal immigration. Increasingly, there is little incentive to play by the rules.”

Sep. 20, 2004


Steven A. Camarota, PhD, Director of Research at the Center for Immigration Studies, in an Oct. 23, 2005 Arizona Republic article titled “Use Enforcement to Ease Situation,” wrote:

“[I]llegal aliens create significant costs for taxpayers mainly because they are unskilled, not because they are illegal. At least 60 percent lack a high school diploma. Such people pay relatively little in taxes regardless of legal status because they earn so little in the modern American economy. My research indicates that the net fiscal drain (taxes minus costs) would triple if we legalized illegals. Unskilled illegal aliens are costly, but unskilled legal immigrants cost even more because they can more easily access social programs.”

Oct. 23, 2005


Jim Kouri, MA, Vice-President of the National Association of Chiefs of Police, in a Mar. 21, 2006 article on the News With Views website titled “The Big Govn’t. Lie: Illegal Immigration Benefits Americans,” wrote:

“Even though illegal aliens make little use of welfare, from which they are generally barred, the costs of illegal immigration in terms of government expenditures for education, criminal justice, and emergency medical care are significant. Californian officials have estimated that the net cost to taxpayers in order to provide government services to illegal immigrants approached $3 billion during a single fiscal year.

The fact that states must bear the cost of federal failure turns illegal immigration, in effect, into one of the largest unfunded federal mandates existing today.”

Mar. 21, 2006

CON (no)


The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), wrote the following information on its website,, in a Mar. 12, 2002 section titled “Immigrants and the Economy”:

“Blaming immigrants for the nation’s woes has long been an American pastime, especially in hard economic times like today. Recently, there has been an upsurge in anti-immigrant sentiment, particularly in areas of the country that host large number of immigrants. Public opinion surveys indicate that the public does draw a distinction between legal and undocumented immigrants, and that the public regards undocumented immigrants with increasing disfavor.

One of the most well-entrenched myths about immigrants is that they steal jobs from American workers, collect an excess of government benefits and in general represent a drain on the economy. Contrary to popular belief, immigrants do not take away jobs from American workers. Instead, they create new jobs by forming new businesses, spending their incomes on American goods and services, paying taxes and raising the productivity of U.S. businesses. Immigrants are good for the economy, not the other way around.”

Mar. 12, 2002


Francine J. Lipman, MBA, LLM, Professor of Law, Business and Economics at Chapman University, in a Spring 2006 Tax Lawyer essay titled “Taxing Undocumented Immigrants: Separate, Unequal and Without Representation,” wrote:

“Americans believe that undocumented immigrants are exploiting the United States’ economy. The widespread belief is that illegal aliens cost more in government services than they contribute to the economy. This belief is undeniably false… [E]very empirical study of illegals’ economic impact demonstrates the opposite… [U]ndocumenteds actually contribute more to public coffers in taxes than they cost in social services. Moreover, undocumented immigrants contribute to the U.S. economy through their investments and consumption of goods and services; filling of millions of essential worker positions resulting in subsidiary job creation, increased productivity and lower costs of goods and services; and unrequited contributions to Social Security, Medicare and unemployment insurance programs.”

Spring 2006


Raul Hinojosa-Ojeda, PhD, Associate Professor of Chicana and Chicano Studies at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), in a July 18, 2005 BusinessWeek interview titled “A Massive Economic Development Boom,” wrote:

“First and foremost, [illegal immigration] it’s a source of value added. The total goods and services that they consume through their paycheck, plus all that they produce for their employers, is close to about $800 billion. They’re also producing at relatively lower costs because the undocumented population typically gets about 20% less in wages than if they were legalized. That leads to lower prices for us and higher profits to employers. In addition, they’re obviously a huge consumer base. We’ve seen that 90% of the wages that the undocumented population gets are spent inside the U.S. Remittances are sent abroad, but that only represents about 10% of immigrants’ income. The numbers are becoming quite huge. We estimate about $50 billion dollars in remittances this year. That means that total consumptive capacity remaining in the U.S. is $400 billion to $450 billion. If you took away the undocumented population, it would be the worst economic disaster in the history of the US.”

July 18, 2005


The Washington Post, in a June 4, 2007 editorial article titled “Immigrants Equal Growth… Reform Isn’t Just Humane. It’s Self-Interest,” offered the following position:

“Amid the blizzard of data concerning immigrants’ effects on wages, welfare and municipal budgets, the essential point is this: The latest wave of immigrants – legal and illegal, skilled and unskilled – has stimulated enormous economic activity and wealth generation in this country, and it is implausible that the American economy would fare as well without them…

Since most immigrants come when they are young and working… they tend not to collect Social Security or Medicare for many years – even while paying into the systems with payroll taxes, in many cases with phony Social Security numbers (meaning they will contribute but not collect). In fact, illegal immigrants do not get federal welfare benefits of any kind. At the same time they often pay income tax (through paycheck withholdings) and sales tax, thereby helping directly or indirectly to underwrite transportation, health care, education and other services.

And while immigrants surely have contributed to some extent to the ranks of the poor, that was also true of previous waves of immigrants; the point is, most of those immigrants didn’t stay poor.”

June 4, 2007


Tamar Jacoby, JD, Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, stated in her July 26, 2005 testimony before the US Senate Committee on the Judiciary:

“The native-born American work force is aging; it’s shrinking. Today’s young people aspire to work inside, with their minds not their muscles. And it’s good news for us that there are immigrants eager to come to our country to do the unskilled work that we need done. What’s more, this relatively small number of immigrant workers helps keep a much larger number of American workers employed. Many American businesses could not grow without immigrant workers. Others, including in agriculture and food processing, would find it difficult to remain in the United States…

So the problem with our immigration system isn’t the immigrants. The problem is that our immigration quotas provide so few opportunities for most of them to enter the country legally… [T]here are only 5,000 visas available for unskilled foreigners seeking year-round work…

This is the heart of the current crisis. We need the labor; foreign workers want the jobs. But there are no legal channels so inevitably people come illegally. And it is this mismatch – the mismatch between the size of the flow and our quotas – that creates most of the problems we associate with immigration.”

July 26, 2005