The Fiscal Burden of Illegal Immigration on Texans (2014)
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After a brief hiatus that coincided with the worst of the economic recession, Texas’s illegal alien population is on the rise again. There are about 1,810,000 illegal aliens residing in Texas — 70,000 more than resided in the state in 2010 when we estimated the fiscal burden at nearly $8.9 billion annually.
In 2013, illegal immigration cost Texas taxpayers about $12.1 billion annually. That amounts to more than $1,197 for every Texas household headed by a native-born or naturalized U.S. citizen. The taxes paid by illegal aliens — estimated at $1.27 billion per year — do not come close to paying for those outlays, but we include an estimate of revenue from sales taxes, property taxes, alcohol taxes, and cigarette taxes.
Examining Texas’s fiscal outlays from the perspective of the current debate over adopting an amnesty for illegal aliens, we find that the fiscal burden to taxpayers would not be significantly lessened even if an amnesty like that proposed in the Senate’s S.744 were enacted. In fact, it becomes clear that the only way to significantly reduce the fiscal burden is to reduce the size of the population that illegally entered the country. State and local policymakers have options available to accomplish that objective. In Arizona, efforts to discourage the arrival of additional illegal residents and to hold employers accountable for knowingly hiring illegal workers have been effective in reducing the illegal alien population and, thereby, the fiscal costs associated with that population.
Aside from emotional arguments about compassion, proponents of an amnesty argue that granting legal status would allow the illegal alien population to seek higher paying jobs, move out of poverty, and contribute more taxes. Opponents of the amnesty proposal argue that besides undermining respect for the law the measure would encourage future illegal immigration and put the illegal alien population on the path to collecting the full range of public benefits that currently are not legally available.