It’s hard to say with precision what impact offering citizenship would have on the budget, but the chances are good that it would cost the government money. Half to three-quarters of illegal immigrants pay taxes, according to studies reviewed in a 2007 report by the Congressional Budget Office. And they are relatively inexpensive, compared with Americans of similar incomes. Their children can attend public schools at government expense — putting a burden on state and local budgets. But they are barred from receiving federal benefits like the earned-income tax credit, food stamps and Medicaid. Only their American-born children can get those.

Government revenue might not change much with legalization. Most illegal immigrants who don’t pay taxes probably work in the cash economy — as nannies or gardeners — where tax compliance among citizens is low. Costs, of course, would increase. Once they became citizens, immigrants would be entitled to the same array of government benefits as other Americans. For Social Security and Medicare alone, offering citizenship to illegal immigrants would mean losing a subsidy worth several billion dollars a year in payroll taxes from immigrants who can’t collect benefits in old age.

By Eduardo Porter - New York Times

Illegal Immigration
Taxpayer Burden

Updated: Tue, Feb 12th 2013 @ 12:20pm EST