It’s good that the average household income in Martha’s Vineyard is $133,000 a year because, hoo-boy, the illegal immigrants who arrived there from Florida this week are going to cost taxpayers a bundle. Over their lifetimes, all the illegal immigrants Biden has so far added to the United States will cost us about $100 billion.
Immigrants don’t create such a large cost for taxpayers because they’re bad or lazy. Immigrants, legal or illegal, are just regular people trying to make it through the day. But their relatively low level of education means the kinds of jobs they can get don’t pay much. That in turn means they pay relatively little in taxes and use more in government services.
The costs at the state level come mainly from children in illegal immigrant-headed households using Medicaid and enrolling in public schools, plus births to illegal-immigrant mothers. Florida alone spent an estimated $1.6 billion in 2019 on public schooling for children from illegal immigrant-headed families — and the number of such students has certainly increased since then.
But immigrants, even illegal ones, also pay taxes. So what’s the bottom line?
The congressionally chartered National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine looked at this question in 2016. Using their numbers, we estimate the lifetime cost to taxpayers of an illegal border-crosser is $75,000 — that’s services used minus taxes paid.
We also estimate that since Biden’s inauguration, the illegal-immigrant population has increased by at least 1.35 million. When you multiply the two numbers, you get a lifetime fiscal cost of the illegals Biden has let in so far at more than $100 billion.
And he has two years to go in the White House.
Nobody voted for this. Candidate Biden implicitly acknowledged that today’s situation would be unacceptable when he pledged to put up “guardrails” to make sure his rollback of Trump’s policies didn’t result in “2 million people on our border.” Sure enough, this year we’re going to have more than 2 million “encounters” of illegal border-crossers (though not all get in). Where is the debate over this? Vice President Harris is supposed to be the border czar, and yet brooks no discussion of the border crisis. The administration basically ignores the pressure its border policies put on the public purse and sticks the states and cities — Texas and New York, Del Rio and Martha’s Vineyard — with the cost.
The solution to this is not to somehow wall off immigrants from the welfare system. We tried something like that back in the 1996 welfare-reform act, placing what were billed as strict limits on even legal immigrant use of welfare.
It was a failure. Whatever the overall impact of welfare reform, within five years the rate of immigrant welfare use bounced right back up to where it was before the law.
The fact is a civilized society is not going to let children starve or old people die on the steps of the emergency room, even if they’re illegal immigrants.
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The answer, then, has to be to keep out people likely to be a burden on taxpayers. As far back as the 1600s, colonial Massachusetts prohibited the settlement of people unlikely to be able to support themselves. That was the start of what in the law is called the “public charge” doctrine — only people who can carry their own weight should be let in.
As you can imagine, the Biden administration has little interest in keeping welfare-users out of the country, as seen in a recent rule rolling back Trump-era restrictions on welfare use by legal immigrants. But illegal immigrants aren’t supposed to be here at all and aren’t even eligible for most welfare programs, and they still cost taxpayers a bundle, mainly because of their kids.
That means if you want to limit the costs to taxpayers, you have to keep illegal immigrants out of the country in the first place. Unfortunately for us, the Biden administration is the first in history to have an official policy of not deterring illegal immigration.
As a result, there are now a record 8,000 illegal-immigrant “encounters” on the southern border per day. And that could rise to as many as 18,000 a day if the Title 42 public-health order is lifted, which the White House is trying to do.
And you’ll be stuck with the bill.
Mark Krikorian is executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies.