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EDITORIAL: Study finds a high cost of allowing illegal immigration

A key talking point for those advocating even more lenient immigration policies is the tax revenue those in the country illegally generate for government at the federal, state and local levels. And there’s no denying that the millions of unauthorized workers contribute to the tax base, via property taxes, sales taxes, Social Security and more.

But does that offset the costs of illegal immigration?

According to a report released last month by the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), the answer is no. And it’s not even close.

The report, compiled by Matt O’Brien and Spencer Raley, estimates that there are 12.5 million people in the United States who fall under FAIR’s definition of an illegal alien — anyone who entered the United States without authorization and anyone who unlawfully remains once his or her authorization has expired. That number is derived from Department of Homeland Security statistics, along with data from a host of other sources, including federal and state government agencies and the research of think tanks, universities and other entities.

Total tax contributions by that population run just shy of $19 billion annually — $15.5 billion in federal taxes, and $3.5 billion in state and local taxes. No small sum. However, the report states that “taxpayers shell out approximately $134.9 billion to cover the costs incurred by the presence of more than 12.5 million illegal aliens, and about 4.2 million citizen children of illegal aliens.”

Subtract the $19 billion tax contribution from the $134.9 billion cost to taxpayers, and you’ve got a whopping annual bill of nearly $116 billion. At the federal level, there are $45.8 billion in expenses, divided up over education, welfare programs, general federal expenses, and the two whoppers of justice expenditures ($13.1 billion) and medical costs ($17.1 billion).

But the offset is just $15.5 billion in tax receipts, for a net negative impact of $30.4 billion.

That leaves the 50 states holding a massive bag for the remaining $85 billion: $88.9 billion in expenditures, half of which come from public education ($44.4 billion), offset by a mere $3.5 billion in state taxes collected.

Nevada taxpayers’ share of that eye-popping $85 billion is nearly $1.6 billion annually, a net cost per undocumented immigrant of $4,978. The Silver State should perhaps be grateful it’s not the Golden State, as California’s cost exceeds $23 billion, at $6,517 per undocumented immigrant. Nevertheless, Nevada’s constant budget woes at the state and local levels make that $1.6 billion a very significant sum.

Deporting 12.5 million people is neither a practical nor humanitarian solution. But as FAIR’s report clearly demonstrates, neither is it practical nor sustainable to continue on the current path. The federal government, with its debt now beyond $20 trillion, cannot afford it. And cash-strapped states, including Nevada, can’t just print money either.

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