The Costs of Illegal Immigration to Floridians (2009)

The Fiscal Burden of Illegal Immigration on United States Taxpayers, a new detailed fiscal cost study issued in 2010, supersedes the earlier state estimates in this study. The new estimate includes some cost areas not included in the state study below. This earlier state fiscal cost study remains on the website solely for comparison and because it also provides sources and methods of fiscal cost analysis that are not available with the new study.1


Executive Summary

As part of its ongoing series of reports about the fiscal impact of illegal immigration on state and local taxpayers, FAIR published The Costs of Illegal Immigration to Floridians in 2005. After closely examining costs incurred to provide K-12 education to the children of illegal aliens, unreimbursed public health care, and for incarceration of criminal aliens, FAIR concluded that the costs to Florida taxpayers amounted to $1.7 billion annually.

In 2008, Florida’s illegal immigrant population cost state taxpayers more than $3.8 billion per year. The $3.8 billion annual price tag covers only the costs of K-12 education, medical care and incarceration of illegal aliens who have committed other crimes in Florida. According to the latest analysis by FAIR, the costs to Floridians more than doubled between 2005 and 2008. The data in this study clearly establish that the fiscal burden on Floridians has been rising rapidly.

Even if the estimated taxes collected from illegal immigrant workers are treated as an offset to this fiscal cost, net outlays still amount to more than $2.3 billion per year. In reality, the taxes collected from illegal immigrant workers are much less of an offset than they may appear. Were illegal immigrants not present in Florida’s labor force, the jobs they hold would likely have been filled by legally authorized workers, working at higher wages and contributing more in taxes.

The outlay of $3.8 billion annually translates into a fiscal burden of about $678 for each Florida household headed by a native-born resident.

There are additional fiscal costs associated with illegal immigration beyond those enumerated in this study that should be recognized by policymakers when they focus on combating the problem. There is also a major drain on the state’s economy in the form of remittances sent abroad by the illegal alien population. The Inter-American Development Bank estimated that remittances from Florida just to Latin America amounted to nearly $3.1 billion in 2006. If this amount had been earned by American workers, most or all of it would have been spent locally, and it would have generated sales, production and jobs in the state as well as increased tax collection.

The nearly $4 billion in costs incurred by Florida taxpayers annually result from outlays in the following areas:

Based on estimates of the illegal immigrant population in Florida and documented costs of K-12 schooling, Floridians spend nearly $2.9 billion annually on education for illegal immigrant children and for their U.S.-born siblings. About 8.7 percent of the K-12 public school students in Florida are children of illegal aliens. In addition more than a quarter million illegal immigrant kids and their U.S.-born siblings are enrolled in special English instruction classes that cost the taxpayer more than $2,200 per student per year, adding an addition $566 in costs to state taxpayers and bringing the total price tag to more than $3.45 billion a year.

Health Care
Taxpayer-funded, unreimbursed medical outlays for health care provided to the state’s illegal alien population amount to more than $290 million a year. More than two-fifths of that cost comes from state outlays for births to illegal aliens.

The uncompensated cost of incarcerating illegal aliens in Florida’s state and county prisons amounts to nearly $90 million a year (not including local jail detention costs and related law enforcement, judicial expenditures, and the monetary costs of the crimes that led to the incarceration).

The fiscal costs of illegal immigration to Florida’s taxpayers do not end with these three major cost areas. They would be considerably higher if other cost areas such as assistance programs for needy families or welfare benefits for American workers displaced by illegal alien workers were included in the calculation.

In 2005, Florida’s economy, like the nation’s appeared to be healthy. Unemployment was at historic low levels. People’s home values and stock portfolios were growing rapidly. Even under those circumstances, $1.7 billion represented a significant burden and forced the state to reprioritize expenditures in other areas. Three years ago, the $1.7 billion annual price tag to provide basic services to illegal aliens amounted to a $575 a year cost to each native-headed household in Florida.

By 2008, a state that is used to being in the eye of the hurricane found itself in the eye of the financial crisis that is gripping the nation. The Florida real estate market has been decimated by the sub-prime mortgage debacle, with foreclosure rates among the highest in the nation. Florida’s unemployment rate reached 8.6 percent in January 2009. In 2009, the state faces a crippling budget crisis, with state officials projecting a nearly $6 billion shortfall.

In response to the crisis described by one state senator as “total dysfunction,” Gov. Charlie Crist has announced spending freezes for many state agencies. Florida’s struggling education system has already endured a 4 percent budget cut, and is bracing for even deep cuts in the coming year.

Against this stark economic backdrop, costs associated with people who are in the country illegally are all the more troubling. However, while Florida’s economy and overall fiscal health have deteriorated dramatically between 2005 and 2008, this updated version of The Costs of Illegal Immigration to Floridians finds that illegal immigration itself and the costs associated with it have increased just as dramatically. As a consequence, over the past three years, the costs associated with illegal immigration in Florida have more than doubled, even as the state’s ability to bear these costs has been sharply reduced.

In spite of the enormous fiscal burdens associated with mass illegal immigration borne by states and localities, the federal government’s efforts to enforce immigration laws remain inadequate. With the change in administration in Washington, it appears that the federal government may be even less willing to carry out the enforcement activities necessary to alleviate the financial burdens on local governments, taxpayers and struggling workers.

Even within Florida, there are inconsistent policies from city to city and county to county. The failure of some local governments to take action to discourage illegal aliens from settling — and, in some cases, adopting policies that encourage illegal immigration — adds to the already substantial costs that affect all Floridians.

The purpose of this updated report is to provide critical information about the impact of mass illegal immigration to Floridians and to the people they entrust to spend their money wisely.

Read the full report in pdf format.

April 2009