The Costs of Illegal Immigration

Some people have argued that illegal immigrants are taking jobs away from American citizens. It would be more accurate to say that illegal immigrants are taking the jobs that American citizens will not do. American citizens are not lining up to pick grapefruit or avocados in the hot California sun. Most Americans would prefer not to scrub floors or, for that matter, to do any job that requires heavy lifting. Although guest workers are an important part of the American economy, it would be a mistake not to look at the other side of this issue.

The cheap labor of illegal immigrants actually carries a high price tag. In just one state, California, the total bill for providing education for the children of illegal immigrants came to $4. 5 billion, with another $3. 2 billion going to provide educational services like classes in English and job training for adults who came across the border illegally (Martin & Mahlman, 2005, p. 1). Illegal immigrants rarely have health insurance and cannot afford to pay their medical bills.

In California, providing health care services for illegal immigrants who had no insurance and could not pay their hospital bills cost the state $1. 4 billion (Martin & Mahlman, 2005, p. 1). Another $1. 4 billion was spent by the State of California for the cost of incarcerating illegal immigrants who committed crimes in while they were in the United States.

The Pew Hispanic Center estimated that illegal immigrants paid $1. 7 billion in state taxes in California. After subtracting what illegal immigrants pay in taxes, the state is still out $8. 8 billion dollars. Neither side of the immigration debate is easily summed up in a single sound bite. This is a complex issue. There are valid reasons why some Americans would be upset by the flood of illegal immigrants that has come across the border in recent years. There are also legitimate arguments about why those workers are needed and how they contribute to the economic health of the nation. One side will not be happy unless the borders are completely sealed and all the illegal aliens are sent home.

The other side wants to make it easier for guest workers to immigrate to the United States. Voters must weigh the benefits of immigration against the problems that it creates and decide what they want to do.


Martin, J. and Mehlman, I. (2004). The Costs of Illegal Immigration to Californians. Washington, D. C. : Federation for American Immigration Reform. Retrieved April 8, 2008, from http://www. fairus. org/site/DocServer/ca_costs. pdf? docID=141 Passel, J. (2005). Unauthorized Migrants: Numbers and Characteristics.

Background Briefing Prepared for Task Force on Immigration and America’s Future. Washington, D. C. : Pew Hispanic Center. Retrieved April 1, 2008, from http://www. pewtrusts. org/uploadedFiles/wwwpewtrustsorg/Reports/Hispanics_in_America/PHC_immigrants_0605. pdf U. S. Government Accountability Office (2006). Estimating the Undocumented Population, Report to the Subcommittee on Terrorism, Technology, and Homeland Security, Committee on the Judiciary, U. S. Senate. Retrieved April 9, 2008, from http://www. gao. gov/new. items/d06775. pdf