The Cost of Illegal Immigration

  • "At the federal, state, and local levels, 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." — Matt O'Brien and Spencer Raley.

  • It is also rather more than the single payment of $25 billion that it will cost to build a wall -- five and a half times more, and every year.

  • "Undocumented immigrants are at least 142% more likely to be convicted of a crime than other Arizonans. They also tend to commit more serious crimes..." — John R. Lott.

  • In 2015, included in the DEA's drug-threat assessment was the fact that drug overdoses killed more people in the United States than car accidents or guns. Many of these drugs [were] smuggled in large volumes by drug cartels."

In his State of the Union address on January 30, US President Donald J. Trump referred to the brutal murder of two 16-year-old girls from Long Island in December 2016 by members of the "savage MS-13 gang," responsible for a spate of other gruesome killings in the area, as well.

Many of these gang members, he explained, had entered the United States illegally. "For decades, open borders have allowed drugs and gangs to pour into our most vulnerable communities," he said.

Calling on Congress "to finally close the deadly loopholes that have allowed... criminal gangs to break into our country," he listed the four pillars of his immigration-reform proposal:

  • A path to citizenship for 1.8 million illegal immigrants who were brought to America by their parents.

  • The construction of a "great wall on the southern border" and enforcement by agents patrolling and securing the border.

  • Ending the visa lottery, "a program that randomly plans out green cards without regard for skill, merit, for the safety of American people."

  • Ending the "current, broken system" of chain migration of distant relatives, and limiting sponsorships to spouses and minor children.

Although he did not specify this in his speech, Trump reportedly is seeking $25 billion from Congress to fund the wall. Opponents of the wall have been arguing that illegal immigrants do not commit crimes at a higher rate than legal immigrants or native-born Americans; that illegal immigration has been a boon to the economy, rather than a drain on it; and that the cost both of deportation and a wall far exceeds the benefits of both. These claims are repeatedly voiced by the Trump administration's detractors, as part of their campaign to accuse the president of racism; but what are the facts?

To set the record straight, let us take a look at a number of those that have been obscured or ignored by the media.

As far as the cost of the wall is concerned, a study released in September 2017 by the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) reveals that, "At the federal, state, and local levels, 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." This, the report says, is a nearly $3 billion increase in the cost since 2013. It is also rather more than the single payment of $25 billion that it will cost to build a wall – five and a half times more, and every year.

Pictured: The US-Mexico border fence near San Diego, California. (Image source: US Customs and Border Protection)

The same goes for the cost of deporting illegal immigrants. According to Steven A. Camarota, director of research at the Center for Immigration Studies,

"...The average cost of a deportation is much smaller than the net fiscal drain created by the average illegal immigrant," in part due to the fact that "illegal immigrants overwhelmingly have modest levels of education — most have not completed high school or have only a high school education...creating more in costs for government than they pay in taxes."...

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