The Fiscal Cost of Unlawful Immigrants and Amnesty to the U.S. Taxpayer
By Robert Rector and Jason Richwine, Ph.D.
May 6, 2013
- As noted, at the current time (before amnesty), the average unlawful immigrant household has a net deficit (benefits received minus taxes paid) of $14,387 per household.
- During the interim phase immediately after amnesty, tax payments would increase more than government benefits, and the average fiscal deficit for former unlawful immigrant households would fall to $11,455.
- At the end of the interim period, unlawful immigrants would become eligible for means-tested welfare and medical subsidies under Obamacare. Average benefits would rise to $43,900 per household; tax payments would remain around $16,000; the average fiscal deficit (benefits minus taxes) would be about $28,000 per household.
- Amnesty would also raise retirement costs by making unlawful immigrants eligible for Social Security and Medicare, resulting in a net fiscal deficit of around $22,700 per retired amnesty recipient per year.
In terms of public policy and government deficits, an important figure is the aggregate annual deficit for all unlawful immigrant households. This equals the total benefits and services received by all unlawful immigrant households minus the total taxes paid by those households.
- Under current law, all unlawful immigrant households together have an aggregate annual deficit of around $54.5 billion.
- In the interim phase (roughly the first 13 years after amnesty), the aggregate annual deficit would fall to $43.4 billion.
- At the end of the interim phase, former unlawful immigrant households would become fully eligible for means-tested welfare and health care benefits under the Affordable Care Act. The aggregate annual deficit would soar to around $106 billion.
- In the retirement phase, the annual aggregate deficit would be around $160 billion. It would slowly decline as former unlawful immigrants gradually expire.
These costs would have to be borne by already overburdened U.S. taxpayers. (All figures are in 2010 dollars.)
The typical unlawful immigrant is 34 years old. After amnesty, this individual will receive government benefits, on average, for 50 years. Restricting access to benefits for the first 13 years after amnesty therefore has only a marginal impact on long-term costs.
If amnesty is enacted, the average adult unlawful immigrant would receive $592,000 more in government benefits over the course of his remaining lifetime than he would pay in taxes.
Over a lifetime, the former unlawful immigrants together would receive $9.4 trillion in government benefits and services and pay $3.1 trillion in taxes. They would generate a lifetime fiscal deficit (total benefits minus total taxes) of $6.3 trillion. (All figures are in constant 2010 dollars.) This should be considered a minimum estimate. It probably understates real future costs because it undercounts the number of unlawful immigrants and dependents who will actually receive amnesty and underestimates significantly the future growth in welfare and medical benefits. [More]