Editorial: Costs of illegal immigration can’t be ignored

Illegal immigration is one of the most controversial topics of this overheated election season. Suggestions to curb illegal immigration by building a wall or increasing enforcement of existing laws are met with passionate accusations of racism and white supremacy. The Census can’t even ask about citizenship.

What is the bottomline cost to the United States and Nevada? That too is controversial. Every time someone comes up with a cost estimate, someone else declares the study fatally flawed, because the estimates are inflated or deflated or simply unknowable since people in the country illegally will not admit it.

Illegal immigrants pay taxes the same as everyone else — sales tax, income tax, property tax, vehicle registration fees. They also receive costly government services — education, welfare, criminal justice system, health care.

Recently the conservative Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) calculated that illegal immigrants received $135 billion a year in various expenditures, but paid in only $19 billion in national, state and local taxes — for a total “fiscal burden” of $116 billion. Since Nevada has about 2 percent of the nation’s illegal immigrant population that works out to more than $2 billion for the state’s taxpayers.

A couple of years ago Pew Research Center broke down just one aspect of the cost of illegal immigration — K-12 education.

Pew reported that in 2014, “States in the West and Southwest tend to have the highest shares of K-12 students with unauthorized immigrant parents. In six states, the share is 10% or more: Nevada (17.6%) ranked first, followed by Texas (13.4%), California (12.3%), Arizona (12.2%), Colorado (10.2%) and New Mexico (10.1%).” Of course, many of those children were born in the United States and thus are themselves American citizens, but would not be in class had their parents not come here without the benefit of legal entry.

At the time Nevada was spending about $4 billion a year on K-12 education, meaning the children of illegals cost Nevada about $700 million a year. Spending has increased since then.

In 1982, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in the case of Plyler v. Doe that states cannot constitutionally deny students a free public education due to their immigration status, because the 14th Amendment states, “No state shall … deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

Recently the Las Vegas newspaper delved into another cost of illegal immigration, reporting that about one out of 14 inmates serving time in Nevada prisons is in the country illegally — a total of 1,000 criminals, 500 of them convicted of violent felonies. That costs Nevada taxpayers about $21 million a year, the newspaper calculated.

A study by FAIR a decade ago calculated the cost to Nevadans for health care, “State-funded and uncompensated outlays for health care provided to Nevada’s illegal alien population amount to more than an estimated $85 million a year. That is a net cost after crediting compensation from the federal government. Nevadans who have medical insurance pay higher medical insurance bills to cover the costs of those without insurance.”

While most of the debate about illegal immigration revolves about high-minded concepts of human dignity and compassion and the rule of law, there is a cost to unfettered illegal immigration that should not be ignored in this ongoing debate.

A version of this editorial appeared this week in some of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel,  Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record.

FAIR calculation

8 comments on “Editorial: Costs of illegal immigration can’t be ignored

  1. Bruce Feher says:

    Relax Tom! Once a DumbocRat gets into the Oval Office EVERYTHING will be “free”
    No one will have to to work, we’ll all have a guaranteed income, all college and medical needs will be taken care of, we will be living in Utopia 😂

  2. Bruce says:

    You’re going to catch hell from the virtue signaling, social justice morality police on this missive Tom.

  3. They won’t read past the headline.

  4. Steve says:

    Do people read past any headlines anymore?
    Untold numbers of headlines end up having absolutely nothing in common with the story they head.
    People, having, never read past a headline spread the hype claiming the lying headline is real.

    Here is a perfect example. Nothing in their own story ever supports their headline. But it was spread like wildfire.


  5. Anonymous says:

    I guess the only real question is:

    Which far right lunatic organization is full of bigger liars?

    The one that claimed the “cost” of “illegal immigrants” was over $100 BILLION, or the one that claimed it was less than half of what that organization set up to lie to the American public said it was?


    And lest we set of the expected “well even if it’s just $50 BILLION it’s too much sort of commentary, know that less partisan; read non hate agenda filled organizations believe that rather than COST the American public money, that this immigration actually BENEFITS in financial terms, this country. (And no I’m not just talking about our nominal president and the benefits HE has received by employing all those illegals throughout his illustrious career as a multi-bankrupted “billionaire”)


    But then, it’s never really been about “the costs” has it…

  6. Rincon says:

    I checked out the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR. This is a joke, right?) – the source of your $116 billion figure – on Mediabiasfactcheck.com, and found it rated as extreme right, a questionable source, containing “Anti-Immigration Propaganda, Conspiracy Theories, and Misleading Claims” https://mediabiasfactcheck.com/the-federation-for-american-immigration-reform-fair/

    I don’t think sources come much more doubtful than that. It’s the worst rating I’ve seen so far. But as long as we’re not being fussy about our sources, I found a glowing article raving about the “7 WAYS IMMIGRANTS ENRICH OUR ECONOMY AND SOCIETY” https://www.unidosus.org/issues/immigration/resources/facts

    Since all we’re doing here is slinging propaganda, I guess I’ll believe that one because it makes me feel good. You can do the same with your so called source, probably for the same reason.

    BTW, pointing out that educating K-12 children costs money was a big surprise! Who woulda guessed? Since us citizens also have kids in K-12, then we also should be condemned. Is that your point?

    Although I too would like to control our borders better, and agree that illegal aliens are illegal, they are hardly the plague that the Conservative media describes. The immigrant problem – and it is a problem – is much more of a problem because it’s a Republican squirrel. The middle class is disappearing, our violent crime rates, incarceration rates, and income disparity are 3rd world, as is our health care system, or at least our health, global warming is already costing the world trillions, and our debt is out of control, but none of these issues are even on Republican radar. Oh look, there goes a squirrel. (Thanks to Steve for that term. I like it.)

  7. Steve says:

    Rincon…here’s another. Just to balance things out a bit.


    And, if you look, the idiocy is about equal from each of the extremes.

  8. Rincon says:

    I wholeheartedly agree.

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