What's Wrong With Illegal Immigration?

The Costs of Illegal Immigration

By draining public funds, creating unfair competition for jobs with America’s least prepared workers and thereby lowering wages and working conditions, and by imposing unwanted strains on services designed to provide assistance to Americans, illegal immigration causes harm to Americans and legal residents.

Illegal Aliens' Numbers are Large and Growing

FAIR estimates there are between 10-12 million illegal aliens residing in the country in 2005. According to the Census Bureau, there were an estimated 8.7 million illegal aliens living in the United States in 2000. According to the Migration Policy Institute, roughly 500,000 illegal aliens are added to that population every year. The immigration authorities also estimate that there are over one million temporary illegal aliens, such as seasonal workers, here at any given time. The population of illegal aliens would be higher, but in 1986 our government gave amnesty to nearly three million illegal aliens, allowing them to become legal members of our society, and we have allowed additional millions to gain amnesty through other loopholes.

Illegal Immigration Undermines Legal Immigration.

There is a list of several million eligible people waiting to be legally admitted as immigrants to our country; some of them have been on that list for many years waiting for one of the numerically limited visas to become available. Illegal immigration makes a mockery of those people's adherence to the rules and of our country's sovereignty.

Illegal immigration harms the American workforce

According to a study in 1996 of the costs of illegal immigration by Rice Univ. economist, Dr. Donald Huddle, illegal aliens were displacing roughly 730,000 American workers every year, at a cost of about $4.3 billion a year, and the supply of cheap labor depresses the wages and working conditions of the working poor. The approximate doubling of the illegal alien population since the time of that estimate means that the number of jobs lost to American workers and the costs of displacement would also likely have more than doubled.

Illegal Immigration is a Burden on the Taxpayer

The costs of illegal immigration to the taxpayer are numerous, but the largest costs are education of their children, emergency medical care and incarceration for those arrested for crimes. Despite being ineligible, some illegal aliens also get welfare the same way they get jobs: with identity documents falsely identifying them as U.S. citizens. In addition, if they have U.S.-born children, they may collect welfare assistance in the name of those children. The annual net cost of illegal immigrants (after subtracting their tax payments) to the American taxpayer is likely to be more than $45 billion. Our study of the net fiscal “The Costs of Illegal Immigration to Californians” estimated the partial costs at $10.5 billion in that state alone.

The Number of Deportations is Low

Compared to the size of the illegal alien population, the number of annual deportations is shockingly small. In fiscal year 2003, only 186,151 aliens were formerly removed.1 Many of the deportees are caught by the police after they have committed a crime. In FY’03, 39,600 of the deported aliens fell in that category. The federal Bureau of Prisons estimates that nearly three-tenths of its prisoners are aliens.

Recent Improvements Have Not Solved the Problem

Although the number of deported illegal aliens is more than triple the average during the 1990s, we are only treading water in a rising tide. The Department of Homeland Security has no plan for identifying and removing the bulk of the illegal alien population, whose number continues to rise. Most illegal aliens remain safe from capture and deportation unless they are arrested for a crime.

Some Aspects of INS Enforcement are Getting Worse

Stung by criticism from companies about worksite raids, often accompanied by criticism from elected representatives, the immigration authorities instituted in 1998 an innovation called "the Phoenix Plan." Instead of raiding a company, they informed it on the basis of a review of employment documents that they appeared to have hired illegal alien workers, giving the companies the opportunity to dismiss the workers. When this happened, the workers were free to simply walk away with their counterfeit identity documents to another employer. The interior immigration inspectors have only the resources to focus on a few large violators at a time, so most illegal alien workers — and the companies that employ them — get off scot-free.

Amnesty is Not the Answer

As millions of illegal aliens are allowed to remain here year after year, pressure rises from immigrant advocates to grant them amnesty. But this is the equivalent of pardoning criminals en masse because it is easier than capturing them. It encourages further illegal immigration and, by creating new "legal" immigrants out of old illegal ones, adds dramatically to the backlog of relatives abroad who apply for legal admission. It also adds to the costs to the taxpayer, because when illegal aliens are given legal residence, they become eligible for additional tax-funded services.

The answer is to deter further illegal immigration and to tackle the removal of the current illegal alien population by:

  • Improving the security of personal identification systems and require verification of legal work status.
  • Linking government databases on births, deaths, and immigration status.
  • Tracking foreigners on temporary visas to assure they leave when required.
  • Strengthening enforcement capabilities both on the border and in the interior of the country including the provision of more detention space for aliens pending deportation, and
  • Developing additional cooperative federal-local immigration enforcement programs.

Critical to the success of the deterrence of further illegal immigration and reducing the current illegal alien population is single-minded support by our elected leaders for our immigration authorities in their law enforcement efforts.

Sources: The Center for Immigration Studies, Don Huddle’s “The Net Costs of Immigration,” the INS Statistics Division.

[1] 2003 Yearbook of Immigration Statistics, September 2004, Department of Homeland Security. In addition, another 887,115 persons were offered and accepted voluntary departure in lieu of deportation.

Updated 3/2005