Thursday, December 18, 2008

Costs of Illegal Immigration and Current Economic Crisis

Illegal immigration was one of the most contentious and important issues facing this country. I say "was" because the current economic crises has pushed this issue to the back burner, so to speak. Almost all of the issues cited below, that arise when illegal immigration is discussed, are still relevant. However, cost factors involved in the illegal immigration become increasingly important when the federal, state, and local governments are all losing significant revenues. Funding for vital programs, including the maintenance of roads and other infrastructure has been lost, and "hard" discussions are undoubtedly taking place throughout the nation about paying for services for illegal immigrants when funding is not available for necessary services for the citizens of this country.

One new factor is that because he illegal immigrants are finding it more difficult to obtain jobs many are returning to Mexico, although no one has a way of approximating such numbers at this time.

A key aspect of the debate and disagreement on illegal immigration relates to its costs. Based on my review of six studies I came to the conclusion that no one really knows the cost of illegal immigration. There are two main problems. Almost all of the studies purporting to document the cost of illegal immigration are written by groups with a particular point of view. I will say more about this later. Secondly, the economic benefits of the illegal immigrants in this country have typically not been adequately addressed.

The Eagle Forum produced a well-documented report addressing many of the cost factors in illegal immigration. However, it is important to know that the Eagle Forum has been a leading advocate for the pro-family movement since 1972 and is therefore not without its biases. The report is worth reading if you are interested in more details about this issue. The Center for Immigration Studies sponsored a report written by Stephen Camorata written in 2004. This report focused on the "High Cost of Cheap Labor." It is important to know that The Center for Immigration Studies is a Pro-immigrant, think-tank which seeks fewer immigrants but a warmer welcome for those admitted. The report is important because it addresses the cost-benefit aspect of illegal immigration, which has all too frequently been neglected.

Some of the costs of illegal immigrants are obvious and indisputable. Examples of these include costs incurred by hospitals, costs incurred by the states and federal government to incarcerate illegal immigrants convicted of crimes, and costs to local school systems.

Mr. Camorata documents important "benefit" issues such as the fact that, "On average, illegal households pay more than $4,200 a year in all forms of federal taxes. Unfortunately, they impose costs of $6,950 per household.” It is important to note that in addressing taxes paid by illegal immigrants Camorata neglects to factor in sales taxes paid for food, clothing and other purchases made by illegal immigrants and property taxes paid by the illegal immigrants. The reduced cost of services and products as a result of the cheap labor provided by the illegal immigrants has a significant but unknowable effect on the overall cost of living in this country. This had been particularly true in the construction of housing where many illegal immigrants are employed. With the tremendous decline in the number of new houses being built it would be interesting to know if the proportion of workers building these houses who are illegal immigrants has changed.