Friday, May 19, 2006

Illegal immigrants pay taxes

In the comments to my post on border security, Gary states that “10-12 million illegal immigrants (are) taking advantage of our government programs without paying in any taxes...”

This is a common misperception that I want to address. As a matter of fact, illegal immigrants do pay taxes - an estimated $16 billion a year. And that is just counting federal income taxes. It doesn’t take into account sales taxes that everyone pays, or property taxes, which if they pay rent (and most likely do) then a portion of that rent is used by the landlord to pay property taxes.

Still, the argument is made that the $16 billion they pay in doesn’t make up for the estimated $26 billion they take out in government benefits. However, there are several problems with the study that makes this argument.

The study acknowledged that, on average, the costs that illegal-immigrant households bear on the federal government are less than half that of other households, and that many of those costs relate to their U.S.-born children.

And critics of the study point out that it does things like charge the costs of small-business loans and civil litigation that are unrelated to illegal immigrants. But the biggest fallacy about the study is the implication that all these expenses would disappear if these illegal immigrants and their children were to suddenly disappear. It won’t. You can take a school district’s budget and divide by the total number of students and then claim that each student receives X amount of government benefits. But that doesn’t mean if one student leaves the district, they suddenly save X amount of money.

The study also fails to consider the return on investment when these children of illegal immigrants use their public education to get a good paying job and start paying taxes. And, as we have seen, some of these children of illegal immigrants grow up to become U.S. Congressmen, Attorney General and Secretary of Commerce.

This is not to say that we should not enforce our immigration laws or guard our borders against illegal entry. But we should maintain a realistic perspective about the true costs and benefits of the people who for good or bad are already here to stay.

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