Charles Breiterman's picture


  by  Charles Breiterman

Last week, I posted part 1 of Reply to An Outside Commenter, whom I am calling Mr. Smith. Mr. Smith wrote us about his friend, a 28 year-old male illegal alien, brought here at age 10 by his parents along with 2 brothers and sister. This person was in the Texas public schools from the time of entry until graduation with a high school diploma. He earns $75 per day doing stonemasonry on expensive homes. The blog received many thoughtful and excellent comments– many of you were as flabbergasted as I was:

Richard4091 of California:

Indeed, "Mr. Smith" also forgot to mention that his friend can get free medical care at local hospitals, with citizens picking up the tab via taxes and medical premiums and co-pays.

Richard2467 of Texas:

If Mr. Smith's friend gets sick and goes to a hospital, who is going to pickup the costs? Naturally, the American taxpayer (aka suckers)! Also, by working in the US, this illegal alien is taking a job from and American citizen. I will not mention crowded schools, the costs of bilingual education, crowded highways, more pollution, etc.

Bruce8307 of Connecticut:

He can't afford medical care, uninsured motorist coverage when he has an accident, food for his kids if he has any, lawyers to defend him when he commits a crime, etc. etc. Who pays for this? ... WE PAY FOR IT. .... There is no such thing as "cheap labor". There is only subsidized labor. One way or another the average United States citizen pays for the plethora of costs associated with illegal immigration and over immigration. Especially for unskilled or low skilled workers who flood the country ...

Medical costs, education costs, housing costs, lost job opportunity costs, prison costs for drug dealers, costs from disrespect for our rule of law, on and on and on. If you want to push the labor market to new lows for wages at our expense, you are thinking just right to make this a third world country. There is no "cheap labor". There are huge costs in many directions.

Karl8555 of Tennessee:

To "Mr. Smith" I say, maybe your "friend" isn't complaining but you should be. You should be complaining about all the Americans - employers and private citizens alike - who pay illegal immigrants under the table for work performed. In short, this unscrupulous behavior not only cuts the legs out from under honest tradesman all across America, it affects all American taxpayers. How? In the form of lost revenue from payroll taxes, increased insurance rates for small businesses, and by adding an insurmountable burden to the social services needs of America's lower income citizenry, nationally, as well as in Texas.

John3870 of Minnesota, Cynthia of Texas, NancyJ5900 of New Jersey, Roland5655 of Texas, Jill3968 of North Carolina, and Patty9297 of California all had similar ideas in their comments to the blog. Notice that the comments came in from all across the United States, showing we still have a United States that will react to this problem and continue as a strong, coherent nation. At least, that is my hope, and the hope of Reginaldo9982 of California.

Mr. Smith runs an insurance business, yet he sees no problem that his friend does not carry workers’ compensation or health insurance, and it was surprising that a business owner can’t seem to do elementary financial reasoning.

Mr. Smith states that his friend “spends all of his earnings buying things to live.” That statement indicates the friend has essentially zero savings.

Mr. Smith, you are an insurance man. You know your friend has no health or workers’ compensation insurance, and no savings. If your friend has a serious illness or accident on the job, who will pay his hospital bills? Do you volunteer to pay? He’s your friend. You want him to stay in the United States, so be a sport and pay for his hospital care! Oh, you want us, the taxpayers, to pay for it? At least “he won’t complain,” as you say repeatedly in your e-mail to us. Well, we are complaining.

The taxpayers will end up paying the bill, or the prices charged to the other hospital patients will rise to cover the uninsured individual, or nobody will ever pay that bill, making it a complete loss to the hospital. Once that occurs enough times, the hospital will go bankrupt and have to shut down. It has happened to several hospitals in areas where large numbers of illegal immigrants reside.1

Mr. Smith commends his friend, saying, “He spends all of his earnings buying things to live,” therefore paying sales taxes, and paying property taxes. In the past, the friend had federal income, social security, and medicare taxes withheld from his paycheck when he was an employee of a company.

All that, Mr. Smith says, is “supporting the local and Texas state budget [and] ... helps pay for the schooling he received.” It’s good that Mr. Smith acknowledges that his friend’s education was paid for by Texas taxpayers and should be reimbursed through the taxes the man pays during his working life. Will that ever happen?

The average cost of public education in Texas was , when his friend graduated from high school.2 Let’s say the average cost of public education in Texas was $5,500 when he went to school, and let’s say he went to school in Texas from the ages of 11-18 – 7 years of schooling. So that is $38,500.

At $75 per day, the friend makes $26,250 if he works 350 days per year. Let’s say he pays $3000 per year in sales and property taxes.3 Texas has no state income tax, so that is about all the revenue Texas is going to get from the friend. Is his $3000 per year in sales and property taxes going to pay down that $38,500 moral debt to Texas for his education? The problem is that money also goes to pay for the fire department, police protection, the court system, garbage collection, road maintenance, and other government services such as state welfare benefits. Illegal aliens draw a variety of government benefits. For example, President Obama’s aunt, “Auntie Zeitouni” was exposed as being an illegal alien living in taxpayer subsidized housing in Boston and holding down a part-time government job. Even if state law bars illegal aliens from receiving benefits, they can still get the benefits if somebody in the household is legal and can front for the other people. It seems that only a portion of the taxes Smith’s friend pays are going to pay down the debt that he owes the taxpayers of Texas. Once the friend has a serious illness or accident, he will immediately revert to a major burden on the state of Texas because he has no health nor worker’s compensation insurance.

Then there is the cost of paying for unemployment benefits for U.S. citizens while somebody here illegally holds down a decent job:

Mary6016 of Virginia:

The cost of paying our unemployed to sit home while illegals work those jobs, on top of bringing in more visas, will destroy our economy, put us further in debt and leave us even more vulnerable.

Again, “He spends all of his earnings buying things to live,” meaning he has no savings, and no prospect of having any. When he is no longer able to work, he will be a burden on somebody. If he has no children, he will be a burden on the community--- the taxpayers. If he does have children, he will be a burden on them, if they choose to help him, because there is no law saying they have to take care of him.

John 0772 of Washington:

Regarding Mr. Smith of Texas - his friend worked for a number of years at a legal job; paid income and social security taxes, etc. Now he works for a wage of his own choice - cash - "under the counter" and pays no income taxes or fees at all. Yet, when he become eligible does anyone doubt he will be applying for those social security benefits? The amount he has paid into the system will be re-paid to him within the first few months or years of his benefits, and from then on he'll be living on OUR hard-earned dollars! Any by the way, how does he handle his health care now? By walking into the emergency room? Just because someone is a friendly, likable guy doesn't mean he isn't a criminal!!

If Smith’s friend has children, the taxpayers will have to pay to educate each of those children at the cost of $7,142 per year, (as of 2006). He won’t be able to contribute much to educate them, since “He spends all of his earnings buying things to live.” Maybe when your friend’s children reach adulthood, they will get high-paying jobs. But until then, the taxpayers have to pay for them.

Then there is the question of the impact of those federal taxes that the landscaping business had earlier withheld from the friend’s paycheck. Will those federal taxes counteract what the friend costs to the state of Texas? In 1997, the National Research Council conducted a study on the fiscal impact of immigrants. It is probably the most unbiased study ever conducted on the economics of immigration, and is still valid because the underlying situation has not changed since 1997. The study found that immigrant households contributed a net of $4 to the federal budget if they resided in California, and $3 to the federal budget if they resided in New Jersey.

It turned out to be very difficult to determine, for this blog post, the cost of all the services received by Mr. Smith’s friend. It does seem unlikely that the friend will ever repay the $38,500 that the state of Texas paid to educate him. That said, I have done an extensive review of studies that assess the taxpayer burden of immigration in general, and a blog to be posted within one week will furnish definitive answers on the issue. Another blog will cover solutions to the dilemma of Mr. Smith’s friend being brought here at age 10, obviously with no say in the matter.

CHARLES BREITERMAN is a Lawyer and Research Analyst for NumbersUSA

1Madeleine Pelner Cosman, Ph.D., Esq., Illegal Aliens and American Medicine, Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons Volume 10 Number 1 Spring 2005, pp. 6-10.

2Carole Keeton Strayhorn, Texas Comptroller, Texas: Where We Stand, Major Challenges Facing Texas Education Today, February 2006.

3Figure $7200 per year in rent, and 20% of rent generally goes to pay property taxes = $1440. The rent cost leaves $19,000 in disposable income. The Houston area sales tax is 8.25% (includes state sales tax), so that yields $1567 in sales taxes paid. $1440 + $1567 = $3000.

American workers
Illegal Immigration

Updated: Tue, May 5th 2009 @ 11:15pm EDT

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