Report estimates price tag of illegal immigration



(The Center Square) – An influx of immigrants entering the country illegally costs American taxpayers more than $150 billion, according to a recent estimate.

For some, the price may be worth paying to solve the nation’s labor shortage, boost the economy, and reverse population decline.

Critics argue that in cities like New York or Chicago or Philadelphia, however, mass illegal immigration has put a strain on services and budgets.

According to a report from the Federation for American Immigration Reform, or FAIR, undocumented immigrants paid $31.4 billion in taxes last year, but carried a gross economic impact of $187 billion. The net cost, FAIR said, means taxpayers footed a $150.7 billion bill at the beginning of the year.

Border and ‘sanctuary’ states bear much of the brunt, but every state feels financial strain. Pennsylvania’s share is estimated at $1.64 billion – placing it in the top third of those who pay the most.

FAIR advocates for legal, limited immigration to better manage resources and quality of life for new citizens. The group says the taxes undocumented residents pay fall short of offsetting the services they require.

Illegal entry, according to the Migration Policy Institute, has also created a backlog of nearly 2 million asylum cases that will take years to adjudicate. While the growing number of migrants claiming asylum wait for their cases to be heard, they live and work in the country.

Broken down by state, they estimate 251,000 undocumented immigrants and their roughly 87,000 U.S.-born children live in Pennsylvania – at an average cost of $4,845 per person.

FAIR’s Media Director Ira Mehlman told The Center Square illegal immigration has already made a significant impact on Pennsylvania.

“And it is going to get a whole lot worse as the Biden administration continues to allow record numbers of new illegal aliens to enter the country,” Mehlman said.

He said increasing costs to provide basic services to residents living in the country illegally comes at a time when state budget surpluses are dwindling. State officials project a multi-billion deficit by the end of Gov. Josh Shapiro’s first term in office – just four years away.

Mehlman pointed to ballooning public education costs – the biggest chunk of state and local government spending. Combined with plummeting academic achievement, it’s unclear how districts – with resources stretched to the breaking point – can handle an influx of non-native speakers without diverting resources.

“With Philadelphia schools already ranked as among the poorest performing in the nation, adding more kids who speak little or no English can only make that situation worse,” he said. “As is often the case, it is the most vulnerable American kids who will fall further behind.”

As of October 2021, data from the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s website shows there were approximately 78,000 English learners enrolled across the state. The largest concentrations are in Philadelphia with nearly 18,000, followed by Reading with 4,942, and Allentown with 2,855.

Philadelphia is listed by FAIR as one of the country’s 10 largest sanctuary cities. The city’s website states that “more undocumented immigrants live in Philadelphia than in any of the largest Northeast American cities, except New York.”

A report on Philadelphia County by Penn Medicine in 2022 says that out of an estimated population of 1.5 million people, “about 14% are foreign-born and nearly 10% speak English less than ‘very well.’”

Critics of FAIR’s past analyses, including the Cato Institute, have questioned the data and methodology used and characterized their estimates as “fatally flawed.”

FAIR said lacking transparency in government reporting made compiling data difficult and their figures did not take into account the surge of legal and illegal immigration since the beginning of 2021.

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