The Heritage report

Heritage: U.S. Taxpayers Will Pay $12,433 Per Amnestied Household

As Robert Rector and Jason Richwine of the Heritage Foundation observe, illegal immigration and amnesty for current unlawful immigrants will pose significant fiscal costs for U.S. taxpayers.

The conservative foundation provides a chart that crunches the numbers on taxes paid and benefits received by households headed by an illegal immigrant, and how amnesty will change all that.

The analysis reveals that unlawful amnestied immigrant households will pay $15,071 in total taxes, and receive $27,504 in total benefits and services, leaving taxpayers with a $12,433 tab per amnestied household.

According to the Heritage report, non-immigrant households receive federal, state, and local benefits such as education, welfare, and healthcare valued at about $310 more than taxes paid. In addition, legal immigrant families obtain about $4,344 more than taxes paid.

Heritage states that the average illegal immigrant family currently pays $10,334 in taxes, but receives $24,721 in benefits. Once amnestied, however, newly legalized households would be eligible for even more government benefits, and the cost to taxpayers would increase. The report indicates that, after an “interim period,” benefits to illegal immigrants would increase to an average of $43,900 per household, while tax payments would remain at about $16,000, leading to an average deficit of about $28,000 per family.

Looking at the lifetime cost of amnesty, Heritage finds:

Put another way, if amnesty were enacted, the average adult unlawful immigrant would subsequently receive $898,000 in government benefits over the course of a lifetime and pay $306,000 in taxes over the same period. The average lifetime fiscal deficit (benefit received minus taxes paid) would be around $592,000 for each adult amnesty recipient.

The Heritage report addresses another common “talking point” of the campaign for immigration reform: that the children of unlawful immigrants will repay their parents’ costs by becoming vigorous net tax contributors, leading to “fiscal surpluses that will more than pay for any costs their parents have generated.”

Heritage’s response:

This is not true. As this paper has shown, the degree to which the children of unlawful immigrants become net fiscal contributors (rather than tax consumers) will depend largely on their educational attainment. Moreover, even if all of the children of unlawful immigrants became college graduates, they would be very hard-pressed to pay back $6.3 trillion in net costs even over the course of their entire lives.

The researchers observe that, while some children of illegal immigrants will graduate from college, many will have substantially lower educational achievements. According to data from the National Educational Longitudinal Study (NELS), 18% of children of amnestied families are likely to leave school without a high school degree, and only 13% are likely to graduate from college.

Heritage concludes:

Based on this level of educational attainment, the children of unlawful immigrants, on average, will become net tax consumers rather than net taxpayers: The government benefits they receive will exceed the taxes they pay.[48] If the children of unlawful immigrants were adults today and had the levels of education predicted in Table 12, they would have an average fiscal deficit of around $7,900 per household.


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