The Costs of Illegal Immigration to New Jerseyites (2007)

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.


Executive Summary

The illegal alien population residing in New Jersey is costing the state’s taxpayers nearly $2.1 billion per year for education, medical care and incarceration. This estimate is derived from analysis of public expenditures on just three of several areas of expenditures for about 372,000 illegal alien residents. That annual tax burden amounts to about $800 per New Jersey household headed by a native-born resident. Even if sales, income and property taxes that may be collected from illegal immigrants — estimated at $488 million — are subtracted from the fiscal outlays, the net costs to New Jersey’s taxpayers still amount to nearly $1.6 billion per year.

The three cost areas discussed in this analysis (education, health care and incarceration resulting from illegal immigration) are the major cost areas. They are also the same three program areas analyzed in a 1994 study conducted by the Urban Institute, and that earlier study provides a useful baseline for comparison. Other studies of the costs of immigration — both at the state and national level — that have been conducted in the interim, support the conclusions of this report.

Even without accounting for all of the numerous other areas in which costs associated with illegal immigration are being incurred by New Jersey taxpayers, the program areas analyzed in this study indicate that the burden is substantial and that the costs are rapidly increasing.

The nearly $2.1 billion in costs incurred by New Jersey taxpayers annually result from outlays in the following areas:

  • Education. Based on estimates of the illegal immigrant population in New Jersey and documented costs of K-12 schooling, New Jerseyites spend more than $1.85 billion annually on education for the children of illegal immigrants. This estimate does not include programs for limited English students, remedial educational programs or breakfast and lunch programs available to students from low-income families. An estimated 11.7 percent of the K-12 public school students in New Jersey are children of illegal aliens.

  • Health care. Taxpayer-funded, unreimbursed medical outlays for health care provided to the state’s illegal alien population amount to an estimated $200 million a year.

  • Incarceration. The uncompensated cost of incarcerating deportable illegal aliens in New Jersey’s state and local prisons amounts to about $50 million a year. This estimate includes only prison personnel costs and not short-term or other detention costs, related law enforcement and judicial expenditures, or the monetary costs of the crimes that led to incarceration.

The fiscal costs of illegal immigration borne by state taxpayers do not end with these three major cost areas. The total local cost of illegal immigration would be considerably higher if other cost areas were also calculated, such as preventive health programs, special English instruction, interpretation services in courts and hospitals, welfare programs used by the U.S.-born children of illegal aliens, or welfare benefits for American workers displaced by illegal alien workers.

If illegal immigrants obtained legal work status, and eventual permanent residence and possible citizenship, as currently advocated by the Bush administration and passed in the U.S. Senate in 2006, state income tax collections might increase, but this likely would be outweighed by increased eligibility for public services available to low-income families. In addition, the possibility for family members of the current illegal alien population to come to the United States to reunite families would increase the size of the poverty and near-poverty population likely to use public services.

Federal law has provided avenues for the state and local governments to act to lessen the fiscal burden of illegal immigration, but state and local governments in New Jersey are not using those resources.

Read the full report in pdf format.

November 2007