The Costs of Illegal Immigration to Virginians (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.


Executive Summary

Virginia has a rapidly growing illegal alien population of about 295,000 persons, nearly tripling since 2000. Since 2000, the state’s foreign-born population has grown by 46.5 percent while its native-born population has grown by 6.5 percent. Similarly, public school enrollment of students who require special instruction in English has also soared, rising by nearly 175 percent over the last decade.

Virginia’s illegal alien population represents a major burden on the state’s taxpayers and on the state budget. These costs imposed on law-abiding Virginians are unfair and unwelcome even in the best of times, but are especially burdensome at a time when the state is confronting a major general fund budget deficit of $1.1 billion.

In 2008, the foreign-born population in Virginia represented nearly one in every nine residents (10.8%), and illegal aliens constitute about one-third (34%) of that immigrant population. Children with at least one immigrant parent accounted for 8.7 percent of the population in 1990, 13.2 percent in 2000, and 17.6 percent of children under age 18 in 2007.

Virginia’s illegal immigrant population costs the state’s taxpayers nearly $1.7 billion per year for education, medical care and incarceration. The annual fiscal burden amounts to about $625 per Virginia household headed by a native-born resident. Even if the estimated taxes collected from illegal immigrant workers are treated as an offset to this fiscal cost — which, as we explain later, makes little sense — net outlays still amount to about $1.5 billion per year.

This information fills a gap noted by the Governor’s Commission on Immigration, established in 2007. Its stated purpose was to study “…the costs and benefits of immigration on the Commonwealth…Specifically, …the impact of immigration on education, health care, law enforcement, local demands for services and the economy…” However, the Commission concluded in its January 2009 report that, “Unfortunately, the resources and time restrictions of the Commission were not conducive to a data analysis of this scope [referring to the Texas Comptroller’s Report on the fiscal impact of illegal aliens].” The Commission did, however, have the resources and time to obtain an estimate of the taxes paid by illegal aliens prepared by The Commonwealth Institute. These estimates showed $145 to $174 million in tax collections, but ignored the other side of the fiscal equation, i.e., the cost of state services used by the same population.

In addition to the fiscal cost estimates in this study, there are additional costs associated with illegal immigration that should be kept in mind by policymakers when they focus on this fiscal cost burden. Foreign remittances sent abroad by the illegal alien population also constitute a major drain on the state’s economy. The Inter-American Development Bank estimated that remittances from Virginia just to Latin America amounted to more than $1.1 billion in 2006. If this amount had been earned by American workers, 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 $1.7 billion dollars in costs incurred by Virginia taxpayers annually result from outlays in the following areas:

Based on estimates of the illegal immigrant population in Virginia and documented costs of K-12 schooling, Virginians spend nearly $1.56 billion annually on education for about 95,000 children of illegal aliens. About 70,000 children of illegal aliens are in special English instruction classes, costing the taxpayer an estimated $440 million. Nearly eight percent of the K-12 public school students in Virginia are children of illegal aliens, and nearly three-fourths of them are in Northern Virginia public schools.

Health Care
Taxpayer-funded, unreimbursed medical outlays for health care provided to the state’s illegal alien population amount to nearly $100 million a year.

The cost of incarcerating illegal aliens in Virginia’s state, county, and independent city prisons amounts to more than $45 million a year — not including related law enforcement and judicial expenses or the monetary costs of the crimes that led to the incarceration.

Some state and local taxes are received from illegal immigrants — even from those working off the books. But, those same tax collections, or more likely an increased amount, would occur if the jobs were done by legal workers. So, unless it is assumed that no legal U.S. or immigrant or foreign guestworker would do the jobs now done by illegal workers, it makes little sense to consider this a true offset to the tax burden. The estimated amount of the taxes currently collected from the illegal workers is about $188 million per year.

The fiscal costs of illegal immigration to Virginia’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.

Read the full report in pdf format.

See also: Zogby Poll of Likely Virginia Voters in pdf.

June 2009