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How much does an illegal immigrant cost?

Three big papers report this week on three new local studies challenging assumptions about the cost of illegal immigration. The Times writes up a UCLA study finding that in California, Latino illegal immigrants are less likely to visit doctors, clinics, and even emergency rooms compared to U.S.-born Latinos. (That doesn't mean that illegal immigrants healthcare is low-cost, however, particularly because they're less likely to have health insurance than native Latinos — some studies put the cost well over $1 billion.)

The New York Times noted that immigrants (legal and illegal) contribute nearly a quarter of the state's economy (and make up 21% of the state population). The study also found that immigrants pay proportionate federal and state taxes.

And the Washington Post comes in with a report from Fairfax County that shrugs and says it's impossible to figure out the cost of illegal immigration, anyway, because some services illegal immigrants use — particularly public infrastructure like roads and parks — aren't tailored specifically to them. A county official offers a sage and no doubt well-documented explanation for why we don't need to worry about the burden illegal immigrants pose to libraries: "Our libraries are not being rushed by undocumented aliens looking for bestsellers."

That last study raises the question, how are those cost estimates made? The ones confidently bandied about by both sides of the immigration debate? Many of the authoritative studies are long out of date; others examine some aspect of the cost, or the cost of a population that includes illegal immigrants, but isn't restricted to them alone.

In any case, local impact seems to be what matters. That's the level at which there are disparate cost burdens depending on the place — even if the costs and benefits of illegal immigration tip toward being an overall benefit at the federal level. And it's where counting can be done most accurately, unless you're in Fairfax County.

 

Comments () | Archives (4)

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Stephen

Perhaps its single biggest cost is the realization by society that as "wrong" as it is, i.e. laws, rules, regulations, etc. against it - it is OK if it generates sufficient revenue. Hence, the country and everything we stand for is "for sale at the right price." Not a very reassuring thing to weake up to. But then again a 120% loan will get you into a killer home - only to learn down the road your lender had to get bailed out by an Arab conglomerate, rich from oil profits in large part from American consumption, based on a run up in prices from Wall Street and the Bush White House, also an oil man.

What I'd like to know is what happens 15-20 years down the road when America's romance runs out with cheap labor/broken laws, foreign outsourcing, with much of the country owned by foreign investment, and no means to pay off its debt? I mean, what do you tell your kids then?

Bill Lenner

The problem with illegal immigration is that the benefits tend to go to the affluent and wealthy, while the people losing jobs because of them are often in the working and lower classes.

The job loss will climb up the income ladder if "guest worker" comes online in a large scale as there are lots of Mexican citizens who know English and can take the place of cashiers and office workers, even teachers especially in California.

If construction wasn't taken over by Illegal immigrant workers the rate might be $30 dollars a hour by now. Americans would work at that rate. A few decades ago construction used to get people through college with less than the crushing debt student have to go into now.

Are you one of those who think you'll win in the game with the subpressed wages through illegal immigration or guest worker? Just tell yourself that when your facing a gang member with a gun wanting to hijack your expensive car, because he couldn't get a job at a decent wage when he needed it.

Mitchell Young

These 'studies' (one subsidized by a government employees union) generally confirm what has long been known -- immigration is a wash, that is it provides no economic benefit even on the crudest level, that of mere 'growth'. Studies often reach even this lackluster results by excluding major categories (the Rand Study mentioned by the LAT story excluded under 18s and over 65s, precisely those most likely to use healthcare), refuse to take account for externalities (the Virginia official lying when he says he can't figure out how an increase in population affects the costs of his/her road network), and perform tricks like excluding fiscal costs of US born as if they are not the direct result of US immigration policy.

So what we have is radically changing demography along many dimensions, with zero economic benefit for the native population and negative effects on quality of life. I'd go further and say that the mass immigration is actually preventing a significant section of the native-born from forming families and reaching the same quality of life their parents and gradparents had. Certainly the traditional improvement in quality of life that we saw in the low-immigration decades of the twentieth century is a thing of the past.

rachel

they are bankrupting a city that is on the brink of going UNDER. Los Angeles. No doubt if they were to all go home to Mexico or other destinations south of the border, our deficit would disapper.

We need to crack down on ALL their employers so that the illegals will self-deport. That will both open those jobs up to unemployed AMERICAN CITIZENS and save the state a ton of money they suck up in services.


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