U.S. Not Offsetting Costs of Illegals, Report Says

U.S. not offsetting costs of illegals, report says

By Stephen Dinan
The Washington Times
December 7, 2007

Illegal aliens are a net drain on state and local governments, according to a new report by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office that found the federal government does not do enough to help offset those costs.

“The tax revenues that unauthorized immigrants generate for state and local governments do not offset the total cost of services provided to those immigrants,” CBO said in its review, released yesterday.

The CBO report, which looked at a series of state analyses, said it's difficult to calculate the exact cost, but noted the overall total net loss “is most likely modest.” Still, the report said, that varies state-by-state, with some states saying they get more from taxes paid by illegal aliens than they spend on services for them.

Those costs come in three main areas, the CBO found: education, health care and law enforcement.

Benjamin Johnson, executive director of the American Immigration Law Foundation, said it's dangerous to try to boil down the economic impact of immigrants.

“It doesn't surprise me that the number is negative because it's negative for the native-born workers that are in those same jobs,” he said. “They're employed in occupations that don't pay a lot of money, and that's evidence that this isn't a very good way to assess the value of any worker.”

Mr. Johnson said it's far better if those workers are legal.

“Let's be very clear. We have to stop undocumented immigration, because if there are economic benefits, it would be much larger if those workers were legal,” he said.

From the other side of the debate, Steven A. Camarota, research director at the Center for Immigration Studies, said while the costs from illegal aliens may be modest, that ignores the costs of their citizen children, who he said must be counted because if their parents weren't here illegally the children wouldn't be either.

Mr. Camarota said the cost of educating illegal alien students runs about $15 billion a year, but that figure doubles if the legal children of illegal aliens are included. He also said the studies don't calculate illegal aliens' impact as users of roads and other infrastructure.

Also yesterday, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano signed an agreement committing Arizona to issue enhanced driver's licenses that meet the stricter requirements for international travel, and committing eventually to meet the requirements of Real ID.

“Congratulations. Good stuff,” Miss Napolitano said as she shook hands with Mr. Chertoff after the signing at Homeland Security headquarters.

She said the new identification will help Arizona businesses when the state's new employer verification law, one of the toughest in the nation, goes into effect next year.

Mr. Chertoff said the deal is also a boost for Real ID, a set of federal standards for driver's licenses. Civil liberties groups and some states have balked, arguing the standards are an unfunded mandate and an unwanted intrusion, but Mr. Chertoff said the Arizona agreement, following one with New York, shows “an accelerating consensus among the states.”