Illegal immigrants cost everyone, but mainly American taxpayers who do not get paid under the table.
The Senate is currently considering a massive immigration reform bill, the “Secure Borders, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Reform Act of 2007” (S. 1348).
This bill would grant amnesty to nearly all illegal immigrants currently in the United States.
The fiscal consequences of this amnesty will vary depending on the time period analyzed. It is expected that many illegal immigrants who are currently working “off the books” and paying no direct taxes will begin to work “on the books” after receiving amnesty, and therefore tax payments will rise immediately.
By contrast, under S. 1348, benefits to these immigrants from Social Security, Medicare, and most means-tested welfare programs (such as Food Stamps, public housing, and Temporary Assistance to Needy Families) will be delayed for many years.
In consequence, then, the increase in taxes and fines paid by amnesty recipients may initially exceed slightly the increase in government benefits received. In the long run, however, the opposite will be true.
In particular, the cost of retirement benefits for amnesty recipients is likely to be very large.
Overall, the net cost to taxpayers of retirement benefits for amnesty recipients is likely to be at least $2.6 trillion.
Who Are the Illegal Immigrants?
According to the most widely accepted estimates, there were 11.5 million to 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States in the spring of 2006.
Because the number of illegal immigrants has, on average, increased by roughly 500,000 each year, the number of illegal immigrants in the U.S. in 2007 is probably around 12 million to 12.5 million; however, these estimates are uncertain, and the actual number of illegal immigrants may be higher.
As Chart 1 shows, some 49 percent of illegal immigrants are adult males, 35 percent are adult females, and 16 percent are foreign-born children.
Living in illegal immigrant families are another 3.1 million U.S.-born children of illegal immigrant parents.
Because they were born inside the U.S., these children are considered citizens, not illegal immigrants.
Illegal immigrants now make up about 4 percent of the U.S. population, meaning that about one in twenty-five persons currently in the U.S. is here unlawfully. Illegal immigrants make up nearly one-third of the foreign-born population in the U.S.
As Chart 2 shows, more than half (56 percent) of illegal immigrants come from Mexico. Another 22 percent come from other Latin American countries, and 22 percent come from Asia, Europe, and Africa.