Illegal immigration now costs US taxpayers $151 billion a year, new study finds

FIRST ON FOX: Illegal immigration now costs American taxpayers $151 billion a year, a 30 percent increase in five years, according to a new study by an immigration hawks group released this week.

The study, “The Fiscal Burden of Lalegal Immigration on United States Taxpayers 2023” by the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) concludes that American taxpayers pay a total of approximately $182 billion annually for services and benefits to illegal immigrants. However, this cost is offset by an estimated $31 billion in taxes collected from the 15.5 million illegal immigrants in the US.

Those costs represent a 30 percent increase from 2017, when FAIR — which advocates for tighter border security and lower levels of immigration overall — put the annual net cost at $116 billion a year.

While illegal immigrants are ineligible for most federal welfare programs, the study also takes into account services, such as education and food assistance programs, provided to U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants, as well as programs for which they may be eligible in state level.


The biggest cost FAIR identifies is K-12 education, which the group estimates costs a total of $78 billion annually. Health care – including unreimbursed hospital costs, Medicaid fraud and Medicaid for US-born children – costs an estimated $42.7 billion annually. Federal, state, and local criminal justice-related costs, which include federal immigration enforcement, are estimated at approximately $47 billion annually.

Venezuelan asylum seekers leave an immigration information center in Manhattan on October 9, 2022 in New York. ((Photo by Kena Betancur/VIEWpress via Getty Images))

Food assistance and nutrition programs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) are estimated by the group to cost about $13.5 billion annually. The study estimates that each illegal immigrant or child of illegal immigrants born in the U.S. costs $8,776 a year and costs each taxpayer $1,156 a year.

Costs vary by state, with illegal immigrants and their children costing California nearly $31 billion annually — the costliest identified by the study. Texas spends about $13 billion a year, while West Virginia incurs the lowest cost at $33 million a year.

“As America struggles to meet countless social needs while facing the reality of a $31 trillion national debt, the cost of providing services for millions of people who have no legal right to be in the United States continues to rise at an alarming rate,” FAIR President Dan Stein said in a statement.

Stein said the financial burden has been imposed on taxpayers “by open border advocates at every level of government” and accused the Biden administration of failing to address the continued entry of illegal immigrants into the US.

“Not only does the Biden administration refuse to rein in illegal immigration or remove people who break our laws, it is promulgating policies that actually encourage more while offering new protections and benefits to those who come here illegally,” he said. “Similarly, a growing number of states and localities are creating their own costly magnets for illegal aliens by declaring sanctuary and offering new benefits and services. This must stop.”


The authors note that it is difficult to get a clear picture of the illegal immigrant population, since many sources rely on self-reported data and many such immigrants are reluctant to disclose information to avoid discovery by authorities. The report also deplores the lack of transparency from government agencies regarding data on the issue. As a result, estimates of not only the cost but also how many illegal immigrants are in the US overall varied widely by group. Groups that have called for looser immigration restrictions have disputed FAIR’s previous studies.

The report comes as the US continues to grapple with a historic immigration crisis that saw more than 1.7 million migrant arrivals in 2021 and more than 2.3 million in 2022. 2023 has so far eclipsed the numbers from the previous year, if and The Biden administration has linked a sharp drop in numbers between December and January to policies it rolled out in early January.


But how long this decline will continue is unclear. Title 42, a public health order that allows expedited deportation of immigrants at the border due to COVID-19, is set to expire in May, and officials had previously predicted a huge increase at the border once the order expires. Many of these immigrants will likely be released to the US

The Biden administration has proposed a rule that automatically makes immigrants ineligible for asylum if they enter illegally and have not filed an asylum claim in a previous country they passed through. Meanwhile, multiple media outlets reported this week that the administration is considering reinstating family detention — though administration officials said no decisions have yet been made.

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