Story by Adam Shaw 

Illegal immigration is now costing U.S. taxpayers $151 billion a year, marking a 30% increase in five years, according to a new study by a hawkish immigration group being released this week.

The study, “The Fiscal Burden of Illegal Immigration on United States Taxpayers 2023” by the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) concludes that American taxpayers pay overall around $182 billion annually for services and benefits to illegal immigrants. However, those costs are offset by around $31 billion in taxes collected from what they estimate are 15.5 million illegal immigrants in the U.S.

Those costs represent a 30% increase since 2017, when FAIR — which advocates for stricter border security and lower levels of immigration overall — put the annual net cost at $116 billion a year.

While illegal immigrants are not eligible for the majority of federal welfare programs, the study also takes into account services, such as education and food assistance programs, provided to the U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants and also programs that they may be eligible for at the state level.

The largest cost that FAIR identifies is K-12 education, which the group estimates costs a total of $78 billion a year. Health care – including uncompensated hospital expenditures, Medicaid fraud and Medicaid for U.S. born children – is estimated to cost $42.7 billion a year. Costs related to criminal justice at the federal, state and local levels, which includes federal immigration enforcement, are estimated at approximately $47 billion a year.

Food assistance and nutrition programs, including Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) costs are estimated by the group to cost about $13.5 billion a year. The study estimates that each illegal immigrant or U.S.-born child of illegal immigrants costs $8,776 a year, and costs each taxpayer $1,156 a year. 

Costs vary depending on the state, with illegal immigrants and their children costing California nearly $31 billion a year – the most costly identified by the study. Texas spends approximately $13 billion a year, while West Virginia bears the lowest costs at $33 million a year.

“As America struggles to meet countless societal needs while facing the realities of our staggering $31 trillion national debt, the costs of providing for millions of people who have no legal right to be in the United States continues to grow at an alarming rate,” FAIR President Dan Stein said in a statement.

Stein said the financial burden has been inflicted on taxpayers “by the open borders advocates at every level of government” and accused the Biden administration of having to have failed to tackle the ongoing entry of illegal immigrants into the U.S.”

“Not only is the Biden administration refusing to rein in illegal immigration or remove the people who are breaking our laws, they are promulgating policies that actually encourage more of it while offering new protections and benefits to those who settle here illegally,” he said. “Likewise, a growing number of states and localities create their own costly magnets for illegal aliens by declaring themselves sanctuaries and offering new benefits and services. This has to stop.”

The authors note that it is difficult to get a clear picture of the illegal immigrant population, given many sources rely on self-reported data and many such immigrants are reluctant to reveal information to avoid discovery by authorities. The report also faults a lack of transparency from government agencies when it comes to data on the subject. As a result, estimates of not only costs but also how many illegal immigrants are in the U.S. overall, have varied wildly depending on the group. Groups that have called for looser immigration restrictions have challenged FAIR’s previous studies.

The report comes as the U.S. is still being wracked by a historic migrant crisis that saw more than 1.7 million migrant encounters in FY 2021 and more than 2.3 million in FY 2022. FY 2023 has so far eclipsed the numbers from the prior year, although the Biden administration has linked a sharp drop in numbers between December and January to policies it rolled out in early January.

But how long that decrease will continue is unclear. Title 42, a public health order that allows for the rapid expulsion of migrants at the border due to COVID-19, will end in May and officials have previously predicted a massive surge at the border once the order drops. Many of those migrants would then likely be released into the U.S.

The Biden administration has proposed a rule to automatically make migrants ineligible for asylum if they enter illegally and have failed to make an asylum claim in a previous country through which they passed. Meanwhile, multiple outlets reported this week that the administration is considering reinstating family detention — although administration officials have said that no decisions have yet been made.  

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