Im­mi­gra­tion costs far out­weigh labors, new Her­itage study dis­cov­ers

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Don­ald Lam­bro

Low-skilled le­gal im­mi­grants and il­le­gal aliens in the U.S. are re­ceiv­ing much more in fed­eral so­cial wel­fare ben­e­fits than they pay in taxes at a net cost of $89 bil­lion a year to Amer­i­can tax­pay­ers, ac­cord­ing to a Her­itage Foun­da­tion study.

A cost-ben­e­fit anal­y­sis by the con­ser­va­tive think tank of the im­mi­gra­tion re­form bill be­ing de­bated in the Se­nate — which it said would grant what many con­sider amnesty to il­le­gal aliens and in­crease the flow of lowskilled work­ers into the U.S. — warned that if the leg­is­la­tion be­comes law, it would re­sult in “the largest ex­pan­sion of the wel­fare state in 30 years.”

“Such pro­pos­als would in­crease poverty in the U.S. in the short and long term and dra­mat­i­cally in­crease the bur­den on U.S. tax­pay­ers,” said Robert E. Rec­tor, se­nior re­search fel­low for wel­fare at Her­itage and the co-au­thor of the study with Chris­tine Kim.

Mr. Rec­tor’s find­ings and con­clu­sions were sharply dis­puted by an­other con­ser­va­tive think tank, the Cato In­sti­tute, which said that some of his cost es­ti­mates were “grossly ex­ag­ger­ated” and that low-skilled work­ers, es­pe­cially His­pan­ics with a strong work ethic, con­trib­uted to the U.S. econ­omy’s over­all growth and pros­per­ity.

Daniel Gris­wold, di­rec­tor of Cato’s Cen­ter for Trade Pol­icy Stud­ies, ac­knowl­edged that lower-skilled work­ers on av­er­age “con­sume more in gov­ern­ment ser­vices than they pay in taxes.” But he pointed to sev­eral stud­ies that showed their work in many low-skill in­dus­tries, from agri­cul­ture to con­str uc­tion, also helped ex­pand state economies.

“The right pol­icy re­sponse to the fis­cal con­cerns about im­mi­gra­tion is not to ar­ti­fi­cially sup­press la­bor mi­gra­tion but to con­trol and re­al­lo­cate gov­ern­ment spend­ing,” Mr. Gris­wold said in a re­cent pa­per.

Mr. Rec­tor amassed a sig­nif­i­cant amount of data drawn from the U.S. cen­sus sur­veys that he said showed how a wave of poorly ed­u­cated, low-in­come im­mi­grants and il­le­gals were im­pos­ing in­creas­ing costs on the coun­try through 60 means-tested aid pro­grams, from wel­fare to food stamps for im­mi­grant fam­i­lies with chil­dren born in this coun­try.

“Each year, roughly 1.5 mil­lion le­gal and il­le­gal im­mi­grants en­ter and take up res­i­dence in the U.S. This im­mi­grant flow is dis­pro­por­tion­ately poorly ed­u­cated be­cause il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion pri­mar­ily at­tracts low-skill work­ers and the le­gal im­mi­gra­tion sys­tem fa­vors kin­ship ties over skill lev­els,” he said.

Ac­cord­ing to Her­itage, the na­tion has 4.5 mil­lion low-skilled im­mi­grant house­holds con­tain­ing 15.9 mil­lion peo­ple, or about 5 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion. About 60 per­cent of th­ese house­holds were headed by le­gal im­mi­grants and 40 per­cent by il­le­gals, the study said.

Con­trary to a be­lief among many Amer­i­cans that low-skilled, low-paid im­mi­grants do not pay any taxes, Mr. Rec­tor said, “Th­ese fam­i­lies are rarely idle; they con­sis­tently work and pay taxes.”

But the taxes they pay sel­dom cover the costs of the sub­stan­tial ben­e­fits they re­ceive, he said.

In fis­cal 2004, “the av­er­age low-skill im­mi­grant house­hold re­ceived $30,160 in di­rect ben­e­fits, means-test ben­e­fits, ed­u­ca­tion and pop­u­la­tion-based ser­vices from all lev­els of gov­ern­ment,” he said. In re­turn, how­ever, th­ese house­holds on av- er­age paid only $10,573 in taxes that year.

Mr. Rec­tor said the so­lu­tion is to “re­duce the costs of low-skill im­mi­gra­tion to the tax­pay­ers” by en­forc­ing laws against em­ploy­ing il­le­gal aliens, mak­ing a guest­worker pro­gram “truly tem­po­rary and not a gate­way to wel­fare en­ti­tle­ments,” end­ing birthright cit­i­zen­ship for chil­dren of il­le­gal aliens and rul­ing out any amnesty in the im­mi­gra­tion re­form bill.

Sev­eral gov­ern­ment and freemar­ket think tank stud­ies as­sem­bled by Mr. Gris­wold at the Cato In­sti­tute paint a dif­fer­ent pic­ture of the im­pact of lowskilled im­mi­grants in the U.S. econ­omy.

“Sev­eral state-level stud­ies have found that the in­creased eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity cre­ated by lower-skilled, mostly His­panic im­mi­grants far ex­ceeds the costs to state and lo­cal gov­ern­ments,” Mr. Gris­wold wrote.

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