Charles Breiterman's Picture

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  by  Charles Breiterman

NumbersUSA staff has developed a taxpayer burden page. I encourage you to familiarize yourself with the information on it so you can make the point to your friends that amnesty costs up to 70 times more than enforcement. The cost of amnesty to the taxpayer will be $999 billion, while the cost of the October bank bailout (TARP) was a mere $700 billion. The blog that follows may be somewhat taxing on your mind, but it is nothing compared to the taxes on your money that you will be shelling out to the government if amnesty is passed!

Eighty percent of illegal aliens are low-skilled.1 Paul Krugman, the liberal economist and Nobel Laureate has written, "Unfortunately, low-skill immigrants don't pay enough taxes to cover the cost of the benefits they receive.”2 That means American taxpayers must subsidize the costs of services to people who have illegally entered our nation.

Before getting into figures, let me try to illustrate why it is impossible for low-skilled illegal aliens to pay their own way in a 21st century society that offers hundreds of government benefits and services. Below is a table of some of the benefits that people who are currently illegal aliens will be entitled to if they become legal U.S. citizens. Some illegal aliens manage to obtain some of these benefits now. For example, President Obama’s Aunt Zeitouni was exposed as an illegal alien living in taxpayer subsidized housing in Boston. However, participation will rise dramatically if there is a mass legalization because people will be lawfully qualified for these benefits:

TANF- Temporary Assistance to Needy Families Taxpayer Subsidized Housing
WIC- Women, Infants and Children Nutrition Program Social Security
AFDC- Aid to Families with Dependent Children Help with utility bills
SSI- Supplemental Security Income Unemployment insurance
EITC- Earned Income Tax Credit Medicaid
ACTC- Additional Child Tax Credit Medicare
SNAP- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Social worker services

Let’s take as an example an actual, real-life illegal alien family that a pro-amnesty filmmaker featured on the television show 30 Days. This family appeared on the episode of the show titled “Immigration.” (The producers left off the word, “Illegal.”) The family of 2 adults and 5 children resided in Los Angeles, and had one wage earner who earned less than $15,000 per year. Simple common sense says that $15,000 does not go very far in supporting 7 people in Los Angeles. The rest of the cost falls upon the taxpayers and charitable assistance. In Los Angeles, the per pupil, per year expenditure on public education in 2001-2002 was $13,074. If each of the five children goes to school for 13 years (K-12), the cost to educate the children is $850,000. How much money does a person with 4 dependents earning $15,000 per year actually pay in taxes? Due to the Earned Income Tax Credit, I think such a person would actually get money back from the government if they file a tax return. Then there is the cost of medical care for 5 children. I can see $15,000 per year covering rent and some food. All other costs would have to be borne by the taxpayers or charity. And note that if the illegal alien, amnestied or not, is using charity, that means there are fewer charitable resources for legal immigrants and U.S. citizens. Illegal alien activists say that salaries would rise if there is an amnesty, because amnestied persons would have more bargaining power. What is the man’s salary going to rise to, $18,000? He simply does not have the skills and does not have the time to go back to school. And amnesties always encourage more illegal immigration, so he will just face more competition from the next wave of illegal aliens; his salary will eventually fall back to where it was.

For another real-life example of how taxpayers have to support illegal aliens, look at my prior blog, Reply to An Outside Commenter-2. You will see that I could not come to a definitive answer about how much Mr. Gallagher’s illegal alien friend will cost the taxpayers of Texas. I would have needed information such as how much they spend on the fire department where the friend lives, and how much they spend on road repaving. Fortunately, the Heritage Foundation has conducted a comprehensive study that did just that on a national scale, and the results are summarized in the next paragraph.

The Heritage Foundation has estimated that the first stage cost of amnesty to the taxpayer will be $36.5 billion every year for the next 30 years. That’s a total cost of $1.1 trillion for the first stage of amnesty when the current illegal aliens are still in their working years. The current average illegal alien is in the mid-30 years of age. If they get amnesty, these currently illegal immigrants will start retiring in 30 years, and will be citizens entitled to the full range of government benefits, including social security. They will take out from social security far more than they ever put into it. According to AARP, “Social Security's benefit formula ensures that lower-wage workers and their families receive a higher return relative to their contributions than high-wage workers.” Their projected life expectancy at that time will be 18 years. For each of these 18 years, they will cost the taxpayers $144.5 billion each year, for a total cost of $2.6 trillion. That’s the second stage cost of amnesty- when the illegal aliens retire as full U.S. citizens. When our politicians attempt to bring amnesty up for a vote next year, they will not be honest about the cost of amnesty, which is $3.3 trillion over a 48 year period. The present cost of amnesty will be $999 billion. That means that if the government were honest about paying for the cost of amnesty, the government would put $999 billion into a dedicated, lockbox account earning a 5% rate of interest, then let that money appreciate over the next 48 years, while drawing down some of it every year to pay current costs.

So if the government were really honest about paying for amnesty, they would do something like they did with the $700 billion bank bailout last October, (the TARP). The leaders of the government would come before the American voters and say, “We need $999 billion to pay for amnesty for people who entered the country illegally.” My guess is that there would be a firestorm of voter outrage and it would never pass!

CHARLES BREITERMAN is a Lawyer and Research Analyst for NumbersUSA


1The Heritage Foundation found that 60% of illegal aliens have less than a high school diploma, and the Pew Hispanic Center found that figure to 50%. Splitting the difference between Heritage and Pew gives 55% of illegal aliens with less than a high school diploma. Both organizations find that 25% of illegal aliens have a high school diploma as their highest education. 55% + 25% is 80% of illegal aliens have a high school diploma or less. Sources: Jeffrey S. Passel, Unauthorized Migrants: Numbers and Characteristics, Pew Hispanic Center, June 14, 2005, see chart on page 23, and Robert E. Rector and Christine Kim, The Fiscal Cost of Low-Skill Immigrants to the U.S. Taxpayer, The Heritage Foundation Special Report #14, May 22, 2007 at footnote 21.

2Paul Krugman, North of the Border, New York Times, March 27, 2006.

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Illegal Immigration
amnesty
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Taxpayer Burden
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