NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


May 19, 2006

As the Senate inches toward votes on a plan to legalize millions of immigrants, one topic remains unaddressed: What would be the effect on state and local governments, asks Michelle Mittelstadt, of the Dallas Morning News.

For decades, the fiscal burdens of illegal immigrants have fallen heavily on state and local taxpayers; they pick up the tab for everything from indigent care at hospitals to rising classroom enrollments, as well as the majority of incarceration costs for illegal immigrants convicted of crimes in the United States, says Mittelstadt.

Therefore, converting many of the country's nearly 12 million illegal immigrants into legal residents could ease the pinch on city hall and statehouse budgets. But a new legalization plan would also impose new costs, says Mittelstadt:

  • As illegal immigrants become citizens, they'd be eligible for food stamps as well as joint federal-state low-income benefits such as Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program.
  • The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates the Senate immigration bill would cost $27 billion over its first decade in increased federal spending alone on Medicaid, food stamps and tax credits for low-income taxpayers.
  • And the price tag could balloon in the second decade as the new citizens become fully eligible for a range of government benefits.

Federal coffers stand to benefit because just 55 to 65 percent of illegal workers are believed to pay taxes; however, state and local governments would see less of a boost, says Mittelstadt.

Source: Michelle Mittelstadt, "Migrant expenses may fall to states," Dallas Morning News, May 15, 2006.


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