Cost of Illegal Immigration
Rising Rapidly in Arizona, Study Finds
FoxNews. May 17, 2010. Arizona’s illegal immigrant population is costing
the state’s taxpayers even more than once thought -- a whopping $2.7
billion, according to researchers at the public interest group that
helped write the state's new immigration law.
Researchers at FAIR – The Federation for American Immigration Reform --
released data exclusively to FoxNews.com that show a steady cost climb
in multiple areas, including incarceration, education and health, in the
last five years.
FAIR’s cost estimates – compiled for a comprehensive national
immigration report it plans to release next month – include several new
cost areas, including welfare and the justice system, that weren’t in
FAIR admits that the cost to implement the new law in some of those
categories, such as incarceration, will add to the economic strain on
the state. But overall, it says, the loss of immigrants either from the
deterrent effect of the law, voluntary exodus or from mass deportations,
will help the state financially.
Also, the savings to the state will far overwhelm any fallout from
boycotts (estimated at between $7 million and $52 million) being
threatened in the wake of the law's passage, according to FAIR spokesman
FAIR's new breakdown shows that illegal immigrants take $1.6 billion
from Arizona's education system, $694.8 million from health care
services, $339.7 million in law enforcement and court costs,
$85.5 million in welfare costs and $155.4 million in other
The organization concedes that enforcing Arizona SB1070, the new law
that allows local police to ask for immigration documents and arrest
those who don’t have them, will increase the state’s incarceration
costs, police training budgets and prosecution expenses -- but it says
those numbers can’t yet be estimated with certainty. Also, it says, some
of those costs will be offset by revenues from fines levied against
businesses charged with knowingly hiring illegal immigrants, as well as
from immigrants themselves who might be charged with minor crimes and
fined before being deported.
But the Immigration Policy Center, a major opponent of the new law, says
FAIR's data do not accurately portray SB1070's potential outcome. “They
count the costs and don’t look at the benefits. We tend to look at the
benefits more closely,” said Council spokeswoman Wendy Sefsaf.
“It is like having a roommate and counting how much they cost in toilet
paper and incidentals without looking at the benefits of having help
with the rent,” she said.
“Overall, every comprehensive study has shown that immigrants are a net
benefit to states. If you add their children, they are a very great
The Center’s cost crunching found that "if all unauthorized immigrants
were removed from Arizona, the state would lose $26.4 billion in
economic activity, $11.7 billion in gross state product and
approximately 140,324 jobs,” -- a disaster for the Grand Canyon State.
But FAIR’s numbers tell a far different story.
(Because of the polarizing nature of the debate and the lack of solid
figures on everything from the number of illegal immigrants in the state
to how to accurately figure their share of the costs, there are no
numbers either side agrees on or has not challenged.)
Jack Martin, the chief researcher on the report, says his data, in fact,
do include benefits like the estimated $142.8 million in taxes paid by
an estimated 500,000 illegal immigrants, and he says the Council’s
numbers are unrealistic.
“They assume every illegal alien will leave right away," Martin said.
"That is not going to happen.”
He said FAIR'S new estimates far exceed the report he wrote in 2004,
which helped gain support for the passage of the Arizona law. In 2004,
he said, he estimated that illegal immigrants cost the state $1.3
billion -- less than half the new estimate.
He said the new numbers put a reliable cost estimate on the economic
impact of illegal immigration -- not just in Arizona, because the debate
there largely ended with the passage of the immigration law, but
nationally, as the debate spreads across the country.
”The numbers just keep growing,” Dane said.
Both Dane and Martin said that among FAIR’s most important findings was
an estimate that tax revenues to the state will actually increase if
illegal immigrants leave.
“We discovered after looking at places where big raids were made that
salaries went up after the raids because employers now had to pay
competitive wages to Americans.” Martin said. “And that will mean more
money for the state.”