The Heritage Foundation released a pivotal report today  which calculates that granting amnesty to illegal immigrants will cost taxpayers $6.3 trillion.

Some highlights from the report:

  • If amnesty is enacted, the average adult unlawful immigrant would receive $592,000 more in government benefits over his lifetime than he would pay in taxes.
  • The lifetime fiscal deficit of amnesty — benefits minus taxes — would be $6.3 trillion, and that’s a conservative estimate.
  • When those granted amnesty retire and collect Social Security, they would draw $3.00 out of the pot for every $1.00 they paid in.
  • In 2010, the average unlawful immigrant household received around $24,721 in government benefits and services while paying some $10,334 in taxes. That means that each illegal immigrant household today costs taxpayers $14,387 per year. Amnesty would provide unlawful households with access to over 80 means-tested welfare programs, Obamacare, Social Security, and Medicare. The fiscal deficit for each household would soar.

In their 93-page report, Heritage welfare expert Robert Rector and domestic policy scholar Jason Richwine break down the cost of amnesty to the U.S. taxpayer. Even accounting for the phased approach to implementing government benefits that some amnesty advocates favor, the long-term cost is astronomical.

The report covers four types of benefits:

Unlawful immigration and amnesty for current unlawful immigrants can pose large fiscal costs for U.S. taxpayers. Government provides four types of benefits and services that are relevant to this issue:

  • Direct benefits. These include Social Security, Medicare, unemployment insurance, and workers’ compensation.
  • Means-tested welfare benefits. There are over 80 of these programs which, at a cost of nearly $900 billion per year, provide cash, food, housing, medical, and other services to roughly 100 million low-income Americans. Major programs include Medicaid, food stamps, the refundable Earned Income Tax Credit, public housing, Supplemental Security Income, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.
  • Public education. At a cost of $12,300 per pupil per year, these services are largely free or heavily subsidized for low-income parents.
  • Population-based services. Police, fire, highways, parks, and similar services, as the National Academy of Sciences determined in its study of the fiscal costs of immigration, generally have to expand as new immigrants enter a community; someone has to bear the cost of that expansion.

What do you think about the economic cost of amnesty? Do you think this report will change the national debate? 

Comments (39)

Don Greve - May 8, 2013

While I agree with the report and believe rationale thought should prevail; I do not believe those in elected office operate from this perspective. The prevailing Progressive agenda is a minority among Americans, however, their influence is backed by big money and the 4th estate. If all Progressive activities are placed together the coherent movement is towards World government. In short unless drastic overhaul of Government is undertaken in short order I see the Progressives winning. Unfortunate as that may be.

Laird Wiggin - May 8, 2013

I agree with Don Greve. Most of the electorate is disengaged from any economics that is not a part of their daily expense budget. We need to translate the $6.3 T to costs per person (or family) per year/month/day.

Margaret Boeing - May 8, 2013

I believe the Congress is out of touch with American tax payers. They have padded their pockets and really don’t have a worry in the word about managing a budget. As far as Social Security, for 40 plus years they have robbed that account. I will never receive what I’ve paid into it. So what do they care if for every dollar that they might pay into it, they receive 3. What’s 6.3 Trillion more to them.

Elaine Mattingly - May 8, 2013

Are those in power delusional when they think this amnesty program is “good for the country”? It is definitely good for gaining the Democratic vote but that is about all!! Do they not do the math or, more likely, they are operating out of a “fuzzy” math process with NO regard for “we the people” who will be footing the bill! What a travesty perpetrated on legal citizens of this nation!! They promise to do something about securing our borders if this amnesty passes, but once it does, I very seriously doubt that our borders will be more secure. The Democrats will promise anything to get what they want as they lie to the public. There will be no secure borders with this administration!!

Rebecca - May 8, 2013

It must change the conversation! Absolutely no citizenship or federal benefits for people who are here illegally! They have to go home and apply just like any other immigrant if they want citizenship, obamacare, or anything else.

J Hugh Nichols - May 8, 2013

I concur with all of the comments of the first four responders. In summation, it would be disastrous in both economic and social ways. How many foreign countries grant amnesty?

Bob Berg - May 8, 2013

One word: Outrageous!. Will it change the tenor of the
national debate: Unfortunately no. The leftist press will sweep the costs under the rug. But there is another point
which is overlooked, and that is the so-called restrictions to the placed on the illegals for a number of years as to their eligibility to receive social benefits. That claim is completely deceptive and false. The law may be passed with those and other restrictions but the leftist members of the gang of eight know full well that such restrictions will be overturned quickly in the courts. In fact, they probably have the brief already prepared to challenge the restrictions once the Congress can be duped into passing the bill.

B Caron - May 8, 2013

Never mind what the cost………….try remembering that we have already tried this once with a promise from government of secure borders. What we got was blanket amnesty and a border like a sieve. If it’s done again, we can expect exactly the same thing!! NO NO NO NO

Mike P - May 8, 2013

You ask: “Do you think this report will change the national debate?”

I think the answer to that question depends on who is your intended audience for the report:

-If your intended audience is fiscal conservatives, I think they will be very appreciative to have this fiscal data on hand to help bolster their debate points against this bill.
-If your intended audience is the so-called “low information voter” population (as described by Rush Limbaugh), I think you will need to find a creative way to describe the fiscal data in simpler terms. Perhaps, as Laird says above, you can “translate the $6.3T into costs per person/family,” or perhaps you can come up with some sort of metaphor to describe the costs and the effect of the costs on citizens.
-If your intended audience is the Democrats in Congress, I think they don’t care what immigration reform will cost. They just want the bill passed. They are going to have to be persuaded with some other sorts of data and arguments.

Mark - May 8, 2013

I hope so!

Bill Sinclair - May 8, 2013

A delusional Congress and Senate is one topic, totally disengaged is another. We can use those for starters. Our politicians depend upon the fact that the majority of Americans are not engaged, “low(ly) informed” and apathetic. My Senator, Burr, has constantly lost in his conservative ratings with Heritage and frankly, doesn’t seem to care. All have aparently forgotten their oath and sit idly as the Progressives (communists) obliterate our Constitution. We’re on the brink. 39,000 illegals will finish Obama’s “change” to America.

chapprg1 - May 8, 2013

Apparently they are and will receive the same benefits that other citizens receive. The problems run much deeper than the immigrant problem. They are at least reputed to be taking jobs that American citizens will not do and therefore at least paying taxes and taking a net less from the system than our own non working welfare users. Lets make a sensible welfare system and the uninvited immigrant problem will take care of itself.

Richard Rogers - May 8, 2013

If you want the public to “have skin in this game” you will have to graph/compare what the average legal citizen pays into the system vs. draws out over a lifetime, next to graphs of projected depletion of Social Security and Medicare funds (year) coinciding with your immigration amnesty study impact in ten-thirteen years.

Footnote the Congressional retirement benefits to all of the above.

Fred Leitz - May 8, 2013

Most of the immigrants I know are hard working and are here for the economic opportunities of hard work. Without them, we would not be able to pick fresh fruits and vegetables we all enjoy. U.S. people do not want to work in the fields for any amount of pay. Most immigrants are here working, because in the countries where they come from, if you don’t work, you don’t eat. If you can’t find a job, you go where there are jobs. If we had such a policy in this country, we wouldn’t need the immigrants. The 6.3 trillion needs to be put on people, just the ones that are sitting on the couch and not working. We have 3 generations of people that don’t know how good it feels to be self sufficient and buy your won things.

marie colombo - May 8, 2013

I would hope this info would tell the American people and that they would say no to this, but I don’t think it really bother the American people, just so they keep handing out all the goodies. And like what Mrs Clinton said, WHAT DIFFERANCE DOES IT MAKE.!
There all like Teflon Don nothing sticks to them!!!!!

Joann Reitenour - May 8, 2013

Let’s not give amnesty to illegals! JR

William - May 8, 2013

Those who believe that Hispanics will vote ever conservative are delusional! They are a essentially in the same camp as the Jews and Blacks. Conservatism has done more for these folks than liberalism, but logic has little influence over ideologues. Perhaps the most persuasive argument against this amnesty bill is the support from the Left for solving our immigration problems. Could it be that the Left understands the Hispanic voter’s proclivities?

Merrill - May 8, 2013

Why don’t they just give them tha dame form.

Lynn Dedhiya - May 9, 2013

Not just Congress is out of touch with what the American taxpayers want for this country.Most of those on Capital Hill. They have thrown away their morals, integrity, and our Constitutional rights to fulfill their own personal agendas, at the taxpayers expense. They can read the polls and see we are dissatisfied. They choose not to pay attention. Why should they, they are robbing us of our futures, while they are insuring themselves the best of everything, again all on the taxpayer.

Mark Kevan - May 9, 2013

I have not read the report completely so my comments may take on a flavor posed by some in opposition; that said I only ask a common sense question of the report. If it is to be of value in the debate, does it cover all the costs associated with illegal immigration or does it just address the costs associated with providing benefits if a citizenship path is included? For example, what about decreased law enforcement costs if we eliminate the need to chase down illegal entry? What is the economic impact of that cost avoidance?

Keith Childress - May 9, 2013

I think someone needs to read article four section four of the constitution to congress. I think someone in congress should read it on the floor of both houses every day. It clearly states that the federal government is REQUIRED to defend the states from invasion. Twelve million to thirty million ILLEGAL ALIENS coming accross the boarder is an invasion. There is nothing else it can be called. Granting amnesty is America surrendering to an invading army. We did not surrender to Japan or to Hitler, but as Khrushchev said the United States will fall without a shot being fired. Make no mistake, granting amnesty is a major if not fatal step in the demise of our country.

Carol Babyak - May 9, 2013

Why must we pass another immigration law? Enforce the existing laws—–illegal is illegal. No amnesty of any kind and secure the border. Only those of the Ellis Island mentality should come to our shores. Come to America to do better and live the American dream. Speak English and contribute. —or, go back to your own Country.

Lee Deese - May 9, 2013

My wife used to come to me and ask about doing certain things around the house, vacation, etc. I would answer her by saying “IF you have enough money, you can do, almost anything!”. I worked in the Middle East in the mid 70’s, there was very little to attract people, water was a big commodity.
Now look at the Islands that were built in Dubai, with 5 Star Hotels, with rotating floors that revolve 360° in 24 hours. The rates per night on some of rooms are $15,000 per night; walls are lined in Gold & Silver. (This is Complements of oil that the U.S. & world needs, to keep things moving). With unlimited supply of Money, mankind can do almost anything.
That’s what’s happening to our Government; they have Unlimited Funds with our Taxes and with what they are able to Borrow. Taxes are raise, to have more money to work with, and we start printing $85,000,000,000 Billion ($85,000 Million) a Month, or 1.2 Trillion a Year, just to keep our Bond program from failing.
As long as Progressives’ are in charge of re-cycling money through our government programs, America doesn’t have a chance of surveying very much longer. The most powerful nation that the world has ever seen, will be turned into, “a so called 3rd World Nation”. Most Americans do not really care one way or another, with Obama Money never running out. They think life will go on, same as usual, government checks will continue to come at the 1st of the month, as always! “If you have enough money you can do, almost anything”, but one day the money will come to an end. The poor, middle class, and some of the rich will be destitute, in a nation that was founded on principle of God’s Word, in a Constitution that would have kept us from harm’s way, as long as we used and followed it, in the Spirit of which it was written. Amen…
No way we can afford this Amnesty program.. How about all the relatives that will soon come to live with people already in Amnesty program. Do they get check too….Are they Grandfather In also? ? ? ?

Jennifer Grethel - May 9, 2013

Secure borders, save Christian/Judeo culture, protect English language. These are your priorities! Nothing else! Stop spending needlessly!

Frank Bilek - May 9, 2013

The problem: Legislators are exempt from the laws they pass and clueless to the impacts tax-payers and voters face as a result of lawmakers’ short-sightedness.
Result: Whether the subject is immigration, tax-reform, deficit spending, regardless, tax-payers lose because legislators believe ALL of our money is theirs to play with.

Our great way of life has been taken from us.

Marie Connors - May 9, 2013

I honestly do not know what the politicians are thinking.
How can the current American workers support this kind of financial handout????

Cecilia - May 9, 2013

We cannot afford to pay amnesty, wars that go on and on, social welfare and health care. Why are these illegal people in the US? The Illegals do the grunt work that we would never have our children. This is sad. There is no Republican or Democratic solution. It is up to The People with morals to come up with a solution the involves fair- labor, taxes. and immigration policies.

Sue moore - May 9, 2013

Secure the border only. Provide to us after two years that itis secure. Democrates want this too badly. I don’t trust them.

Barbara Johnson - May 10, 2013

Who hears this besides people who are involved w/ your organization? The general population who like Obama don’t hear these facts. They see CBS, NBC and CNN and watch Dancing With the Stars and Reality shows. They don’t care about news other than the current events in Arizona and Ohio! All this news deals with sex and violence ….not national security! P.S. most of these people love Hillary.

Michael Barbuck - May 10, 2013

Too many people are unaware what is happening in our country. We have to keep trying to get the message out.

John - May 11, 2013

I really think that Marco Rubio’s latest proposal is the best for all parties and it gives a chance to help the people who are here legally verses those who are not. We cannot make it easy or all of Mexico will be moving to the US. I also cannot agree with anything that does not deal with securing the border and the penalties for violating. It is a joke now.

Etelvina R. Patmas - May 11, 2013

Cato disagrees with Heritage Foundation’s estimated costs for comprehensive immigration reform. Nevertheless, our borders need to be secured first. And a more sensible and compassionate immigration reform needs to be presented that is considerate and fair to all taxpayers.

Holly Chapo - May 12, 2013

The estimated costs of amnesty are shocking and should be a wake-up call to all Americans that the current Senate legislation is bad for the country. I hope it will change the national debate but Republicans are the ones who must spearhead the change. Unfortunately, they don’t seem to know how to get a meaningful message out to the American people. And just as unfortunately, we have too many people who will be directly affected by the costs who choose to remain “low information voters.”

Barb Hail - May 12, 2013

The border needs to be made secure first, no welfare or benefits for illegals, border patrols should be allowed to enforce our laws, and then congress can talk about what to do about the illegals who broke our laws to come here. We cannot afford amnesty now. Support Ted Cruz amendment that would ban illegals currently in the U.S. from ever getting citizenship.

Virginia Lange - May 14, 2013

I have come to believe that we need to have immigration reform. There should be Amnesty for children born here of illegal parents. There should be a path to citizenship for most illegals unless they have committed a felony. They tend to be entrepreneurs who create small businesses which creates jobs and expands the tax base. Read Jeb Bush’s book, “Immigration Wars”.

Marlene Anelo - May 24, 2013

I sure hope so. But in reality the folks in Washington really don’t care what it would cost the taxpayers. I pray this report reaches millions and they read it all the way through.

Ruth Hammons - March 20, 2015

I think that Ilegals are a pawn in an awful game that some a playing with us and America. They cost us a fortune and disrupt life here-with all the burden they cause-while not truly getting a better life. Once here and if they stay with all the trappings,they will still be in the shadows,for they cause so much trouble in so many ways. They are systematically being push on us to blend in more people to ‘change’ the horizon of our nation! Fools think they will all vote left & they do not it will be something if they do not dance to the tune of the left! It is outrageous that Mexico will not stand for their own people and push them on us instead…just pathetically outrageous and against all that should be law! # It eases what mexico has to do for their own, it makes us a more cramped nation and they have LOTS of children typically. #2 They will continue to exploit all programs—the legal’s do so already! #3 The more intelligent ones will always be against the history of the US-as we won against them and they will push back by trying to get into office and push the Hispanic way here.
#4 Our government has NOT lived up to any of the laws we have, has not honored us over ALL others and our borders! #5 The world sees us as a weak and evil nation with evil ways and they no longer see us as a beacon! #6
Our schools are crowed as is and what is being taught is going to make clashes of peoples ahead, us and them & it goes on and on! This is OUR nation, heritage, history and we do not want it changed for someone else’s ideals,motives or power trips…THIS IS OUR LIVES WE ARE TALKING ABOUT AND THE FUTURE. IF THERE IS TO BE ONE FOR A TIME MORE!? WE HAVE GOT TO GET THINGS RIGHT AND THE CONSTITUTION HONORED-AS WELL AS THE HERITAGE OF AMERICA AND US! God has been trampled over by Americans and we have to get that back too……ONE NATION UNDER GOD! WHAT WILL BE HAPPENING IF WE DO NOT IS INSANITY AND TO BR SNISLSTED!!

Nancy Miller - March 20, 2015

I do not want those illegals in my country, especially when they are dismissed for stealing, etc. and yes, even murder. Here in Pittsburg an illegal (with no driver’s license) was driving a flatbed on the beltway and a tire came off and killed the person in the car behind him. He was let go and the story went away. That’s what’s happening everywhere. And OMG, the stories in Arizona and Texas are appalling. They can kill and do anything they want and the border patrol is not allowed to arrest them. Oba’me’ is building his caliphate a day at a time. We all need to wake up and take our Country back.

Harvey L. Poppel - July 12, 2019

Full report link does not work.

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