The Federation of Americans for Immigration Reform has released their revised 2011 report on the fiscal burden of illegal immigration on the American economy and taxpayers, with a staggering cost of some $113 BILLION in expenditures, with nearly $84 billion of that absorbed by state and local economies.

Executive Summary

The study estimates tax collections from illegal alien workers, both those in the above-ground economy and those in the underground economy. Those receipts do not come close to the level of expenditures and, in any case, are misleading as an offset because over time unemployed and underemployed U.S. workers would replace illegal alien workers.

Key Findings

  • Illegal immigration costs U.S. taxpayers about $113 billion a year at the federal, state and local level. The bulk of the costs — some $84 billion — are absorbed by state and local governments.
  • The annual outlay that illegal aliens cost U.S. taxpayers is an average amount per native-headed household of $1,117. The fiscal impact per household varies considerably because the greatest share of the burden falls on state and local taxpayers whose burden depends on the size of the illegal alien population in that locality
  • Education for the children of illegal aliens constitutes the single largest cost to taxpayers, at an annual price tag of nearly $52 billion. Nearly all of those costs are absorbed by state and local governments.
  • At the federal level, about one-third of outlays are matched by tax collections from illegal aliens. At the state and local level, an average of less than 5 percent of the public costs associated with illegal immigration is recouped through taxes collected from illegal aliens.
  • Most illegal aliens do not pay income taxes. Among those who do, much of the revenues collected are refunded to the illegal aliens when they file tax returns. Many are also claiming tax credits resulting in payments from the U.S. Treasury.

With many state budgets in deficit, policymakers have an obligation to look for ways to reduce the fiscal burden of illegal migration. California, facing a budget deficit of $14.4 billion in 2010-2011, is hit with an estimated $21.8 billion in annual expenditures on illegal aliens. New York’s $6.8 billion deficit is smaller than its $9.5 billion in yearly illegal alien costs.
The report examines the likely consequences if an amnesty for the illegal alien population were adopted similar to the one adopted in 1986. The report notes that while tax collections from the illegal alien population would likely increase only marginally, the new legal status would make them eligible for receiving Social Security retirement benefits that would further jeopardize the future of the already shaky system. An amnesty would also result in this large population of illegal aliens becoming eligible for numerous social assistance programs available for low-income populations for which they are not now eligible. The overall result would, therefore, be an accentuation of the already enormous fiscal burden.


All studies assessing the impact of illegal aliens begin with estimates of the size of that population. We use a population of 13 million broken down by state.
In our cost estimates we also include the minor children of illegal aliens born in the United States. That adds another 3.4 million children to the 1.3 million children who are illegal aliens themselves. We include these U.S. citizen children of illegal aliens because the fiscal outlays for them are a direct result of the illegal migration that led to their U.S. birth. We do so as well in the assumption that if the parents leave voluntarily or involuntarily they will take these children with them. The birth of these children and their subsequent medical care represent a large share of the estimated Medicaid and Child Health Insurance Program expenditures associated with illegal aliens.
We use data collected by the federal and state governments on school expenses, Limited English Proficiency enrollment, school meal programs, university enrollment, and other public assistance programs administered at the federal and state level. Estimates of incarceration expenses are based on data collected in the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program in which state and local detention facilities seek federal compensation for the cost of detention of criminal and deportable aliens. Estimates for other administration of justice expenditures are based on data collected from the states by the U.S. Department of Justice. General government expenditures are estimated for other non-enumerated functions of government at both the federal and local level. An example would be the cost of fire departments or the cost of the legislature.
Medical costs that amount to 10 percent of overall state and local outlays on illegal aliens derive from our estimate of the childbirths to illegal alien mothers covered by Medicaid, the subsequent medical insurance and treatment of those children and an estimate of uncompensated cost of emergency medical treatment received by illegal aliens. The latter expenditure estimate is based on state and local government studies of uncompensated medical care.
The tax collections from illegal aliens assume eight million illegal alien workers, one-half of whom are in the underground economy. Those in the above-ground economy are assumed to have an average family income of $31,200 (60 hr. workweek @ $10/hr.) with two children.


The report notes that today’s debate over what to do about illegal aliens places the country at a crossroads. One choice is pursuing a strategy that discourages future illegal migration and increasingly diminishes the current illegal alien population through denial of job opportunities and deportations. The other choice would repeat the unfortunate decision made in 1986 to adopt an amnesty that invited continued illegal migration.

The Eight-Step Plan to Stopping Illegal Immigration

Illegal immigration is an enormous problem for the United States, and one that is growing, with nine to eleven million illegal aliens currently estimated to be in the U.S. While most efforts to halt illegal immigration have focused on our southern land border, the difficulties are spread throughout the immigration system. Spotty or haphazard efforts to end illegal immigration cannot succeed.
In order to compose an overall, cohesive plan, FAIR sponsored an experts’ study that resulted in the report Ten Steps to Ending Illegal Immigration. It is important to realize that the proposals outlined below are not separate, but are interdependent parts of an overall plan to end illegal immigration–a plan that can succeed. The following are the key recommendations.

1.) The loopholes that facilitate illegal immigration must be closed.

We need to:

use expeditious exclusion of fraudulent entrants at airports;
limit the Attorney General’s excess authority to parole aliens into the country;
cap the number of asylum grantees;
reinstitute authority for the Border Patrol to conduct open-field searches;
stop seventy-two-hour deportation notices (known as “run letters”);
eliminate legalistic delaying tactics in immigration hearings;
eliminate the visa waiver program.

2.) Incentives for illegal immigration must be eliminated.

We need to:

stop giving citizenship to the children of illegal aliens and foreign visitors;
withhold work authorization to those with pending asylum claims;
establish a universal system for checking welfare and work eligibility;
end all public benefits for illegal aliens.

3.) The penalties for violating immigration law must be increased.

We need to:

bar from later immigration those who make frivolous asylum applications and ‘no-shows’;
make alien smuggling and document fraud into racketeering crimes;
bar reentry to any alien receiving a five-year prison sentence;
withhold funds from localities that refuse to cooperate with efforts to end illegal immigration;
deport immigrants who become public charges.

4.) Existing programs that are particularly effective must be expanded.

We need to:

widen use of pre-inspection programs abroad and frequent-traveler inspection procedures;
extend the Border Patrol canine program and highway checkpoint system;
increase interior repatriation and deportation hearings of criminal aliens by telephone;
broaden the assets seizure program.

5.) Government agencies must coordinate their efforts better and more extensively.

We need to:

improve coordination between border agencies and between intelligence agencies;
limit judicial review of immigration decisions and expand judicial deportation;
give the National Security Council a role in ending illegal immigration;
combine the immigration service (INS) work form with the IRS work form;
speed notification to INS of jailed aliens, including certified records of conviction.

6.) A greater investment must be made in the personnel who combat illegal immigration.

We need to:

increase personnel in Inspections, Intelligence, Border Patrol, and Detention and Deportation;
reduce temporary employees in INS Inspections and increase the permanent staff;
dedicate investigators to work solely on employment of illegal aliens;
expand on-going training programs for inspectors, intelligence officers, and investigators;
establish systematic performance reviews of immigration judges.

7.) Top-of-the-line equipment must be available to the enforcers of immigration law.

We need to:

provide a facility for INS classified information;
establish equipment plans for INS Intelligence, the Border Patrol, and Investigations;
improve vehicle fleets of the Border Patrol, Investigations, and Detention and Deportation;
create a centralized case database for INS Investigations.

8.) New technology must be harnessed to the battle against illegal immigration.

We need to:

introduce new, up-to-date technology in Inspections, the Border Patrol, and Investigations;
create a secure intelligence database and distribution system;
set up a verification system for welfare and work eligibility.

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