In light of Donald Trump’s crackdown on illegal immigrants, it’s worth looking at the facts—how many illegal immigrants are there, and what do they cost America?
Lots. Almost $150 billion a year.
But this article focuses specifically on California, which is home to an estimated 27% of America’s illegal aliens.
You can read the full report on illegal immigrants in America here; I cover economics, crime, culture, and morality.
Illegal Immigrants Cost California $30.29 Billion A Year
Illegal immigrants and their children cost California at least $30.29 billion a year in net costs—$7,352 per alien.
For context: given that California’s state budget is $171 billion, this means that illegal immigration would cost 17.7% of this spending (although much of the costs are absorbed locally).
At this point, the question is no longer whether California ought to allow illegal immigration—it’s whether it can afford it.
Illegal aliens are expensive, and financial burden on California’s already strained government is unsustainable. Worse, it’s already taking its toll.
Just this week California’s Oroville Dam was on the brink of breaching, due to financial neglect—there’s just not enough money to go around.
Immanent disaster seems to have alerted the state legislature of the need for action—last week they requested $100 billion in federal funding to rebuild their state.
Frankly I hope they get the funding. They need it.
But it brings up an important question: why can’t they afford to maintain their state themselves?
California is America’s largest and richest state. It’s the home of giant, high-tech, highly profitable companies like Apple and Google—yet it’s fallen into disrepair.
Frankly, it’s because the state’s been flooded with illegal immigrants, who increase systemic strain without proportionally contributing to the economy.
Basically, Californians are supporting themselves, in addition to a very large underclass—one in eleven Californians are illegal immigrants (at bare minimum).
This is much like Sweden, which now spends over 20% of it’s tax dollars on migrants. It’s not that bad in California, but it’s very close.
How Many Illegal Immigrants Are In The US? California?
In all honesty, no one really knows.
They’re undocumented. That’s the whole point.
Estimates are wide-ranging. On the low end, Pew Research estimates that the number of illegal immigrants in the US is roughly 11.1 million—this number tracks fairly closely with official government figures.
On the high end, estimates peg the number of illegal aliens in the US at roughly 30 million people. This number has been proposed by conservative author Ann Coulter in her book Adios America. She based the figure off banking and remittance payment records, government service demand, and migration projections from ICE.
Frankly, I think the math makes much more sense with Coulter’s estimate, but in the interests of neutrality, this article will proceed using the lowest realistic number of illegal immigrants in California (11.1 million).
But that’s for the entire USA. What about California?
According to the Migration Policy Institute, there are 3,019,000 adult illegal immigrants living in the state of California. On top of this are 1.1 million children of illegal immigrants (975,000 of which would be considered anchor babies).
In total, there are 4.12 million illegal immigrants, and their children living in California.
Furthermore, these people use government services (which proponents of illegal immigration often try to minimize). I’ll get into the details later, but just as an example, some 806,000 undocumented migrants had drivers licences in 2016.
Most are also relatively unskilled with poor language skills. It is estimated that 54% of illegals speak English “not well” or speak it “not at all”. This is why they tend to work in low level service sector jobs, like in restaurants, or doing manual labor, like picking fruit.
In any event, it must be noted that illegal immigrants aren’t adding value to the economy that teenagers or machines couldn’t easily do, given the chance.
So that’s the number we’re dealing with. Let’s look at the cost of illegal immigration, the facts and statistics, and see how they break down.
Calculating The Cost Of Illegal Immigration In California
Education For Illegal Immigrants: $15.63 Billion
As stated, there are 975,000 anchor babies and 130,000 undocumented children living in California. This totals 1.105 million children—all of whom are educated largely at state expense.
Although the California Department of Education doesn’t include undocumented children as a separate statistical group in terms of costs, we know that the total enrollment in California’s public schools was 6,226,737 in 2016. A further 573,000 attended private charter schools.
Given that the vast majority of illegal immigrants attend public schools, this means that roughly 17.7% of California’s public student population is comprised of children here illegally, or the children of illegal immigrants.
This inflated student population costs a lot, and adds huge burdens on California’s education system.
According to California’s state budget, $88.3 billion is allocated for California’s K-12 students ($51.6 billion from California, the rest from local and federal initiatives).
Given their proportion of the student population, illegal immigrants and their children eat up $15.63 billion in educational costs.
This lowers the quality of education for American citizens, especially since California’s student-to-teacher ratio is 35% above the national average.
This is directly the result of illegal immigration—it’s the kids that suffer.
Healthcare For Illegal Immigrants: $4.02 Billion
Providing healthcare for illegal immigrants in California imposes significant costs, while also increasing wait-times and decreasing the overall quality of care (by lowering the physician-to-patient ratio).
Illegal immigrants withdraw roughly $2.28 billion from Medicaid in California, and cost roughly $1.3 billion in emergency services (they are treated, but do not pay).
Together, these hard costs equate to $4.02 billion per year.
However, these numbers don’t necessarily reflect the true costs of illegal aliens on the healthcare system, because they don’t quantify opportunity costs (we could be investing in better technology, or more doctors, rather than treating illegal immigrants) or damage caused by the burdened system (pain and suffering caused by long wait times, lost productivity etc.).
Remittance Payments: $3.86 Billion
A remittance is a transfer of money from someone in the US to their family back home.
They are usually given by recent immigrants, and particularly by illegal immigrants and visa card holders (who come to America to work in order to support their family abroad).
Basically, a remittance is money lost from the economy: it vanishes, never to be spent domestically.
According to Pew Research America lost $133.6 billion in remittances in 2015.
Of this, $24 billion went to Mexico (the biggest recipient).
Other important destinations, for our purposes, are Guatemala ($5.9 billion), El Salvador ($3.98 billion), the Dominican Republic ($3.83 billion), and Honduras ($3.2 billion).
All totaled, $40.9 billion was sent from the US to Mexico and Central America.
Now, we can’t assume that only illegal immigrants send remittances, so I will estimate that first generation immigrants and illegal immigrants send remittances at the same frequency.
This will provide us with an (intentionally) low estimate for remittances paid by illegal immigrants to Mexico and Central America alone.
Given that there are 11.7 million legal immigrants from Mexico, and 3.1 million from Central America living in the USA, this gives as a pool of 14.8 million legal immigrants contributing to the remittance figures.
We also know that 74% of illegal immigrants are from Mexico or Central America, or 8.14 million.
This means that of the total Hispanic population assuming to be paying remittances, 35% are likely illegal immigrants. This works out to illegals paying out $14.31 billion to the region annually.
If we narrow this down to California, where 27% of total illegal immigrants live, then we can determine that Californian illegal immigrants remit $3.86 billion every year to Mexico and Central America.
This is to say nothing of the other nearly 1 million illegal immigrants, most of whom overstayed their visas, which would add significantly to this figure.
Crimes Committed By Illegal Immigrants: $4.4 Billion
The additional costs imposed by crimes committed by illegal immigrants, which include policing, court, and incarceration costs, add up to $4.4 billion, according to the study done by the Federation for American Immigration Reform.
This includes an additional $1.85 billion for policing, $1.12 billion for court services, and $1.54 billion for prisons.
As significant as this is, it doesn’t begin to approach the true costs of crime, which should rightly factor in lost productivity and wages, and intangible costs such as pain and suffering, long-term social costs (such as a reduction in community cohesion etc.). The list goes on and on.
These intangible costs (which are never included in such studies because of their vagueness) are likely significantly higher than the tangible costs.
For example, a study which estimated the average intangible costs of crimes in California (2008 dollars) shows that the real cost is much higher than the calculated costs for most crimes—especially for violent and sexual crimes.
The intangible costs are estimated based on special damages awarded by court proceedings.
|Type of Offense||Tangible Cost||Intangible Cost||Total Cost|
|Motor Vehicle Theft||$10,534||$262||$10,772|
|Forgery and Counterfeiting||$5,265||N/A||$5,265|
Were we to include intangible costs, even doubling the stated figure of $4.4 billion would probably understate the situation.
Frankly, I think the number’s probably higher in terms of tangible costs, given that the proportional percent of crimes committed by illegal immigrants is high. For example, almost 75% federal drug possession sentences were given to illegal immigrants, and 40% of all federal crimes were committed in jurisdictions neighboring the Mexican border—meaning they were likely due to gang and drug trafficking committed by illegal immigrants.
Simply put, the statistics show that illegal immigrants dramatically increase crime rates.
Beyond that, illegal immigrants are highly over-represented in murder charges, committing 38% of all murders in California, Texas, Arizona, Florida and New York.
We’ll stick with $4.4 billion as our ballpark, but it’s probably at least double that.
Government Administration & Services: $1.6 Billion
Added strain caused by the illegal immigrant population costs California $1.6 billion a year.
Included in this number are things like the upkeep of parks, public recreation areas, libraries, roads, fire departments, and $792 million in state welfare handouts.
This number doesn’t include intangible costs of systemic strain, such as longer lines, busier parks etc. This contributes to the quality of life, but can’t easily be measured.
It also doesn’t include the spillover impact on American citizens who need public assistance but can’t get it, because illegal immigrants are milking the system.
For example, roughly 1.5 million citizens spend over half their income on shelter in California—housing is expensive because illegal immigrants compete in the property market, inflating costs. You never hear about this, but the cost of living is increased due to illegal immigration.
Tax Revenue: $3.5 Billion
Illegal immigrants do pay taxes, including sales taxes and (sometimes) payroll taxes. It’s estimated that they contribute $3.5 billion in taxes to California’s state revenue.
This isn’t even close to what they withdraw in terms of services.
Annual Cost Of Illegal Immigration To California: $30.29 Billion
Illegal aliens cost California $30.29 billion every single year—this includes their contribution in terms of taxes.
This works out to $7,352 per illegal immigrant.
This massive burden is one of the main reasons California’s schools and infrastructure is in a total state of disrepair.
These estimates are likely very low, since they don’t include any intangible costs associated with crime or increased systemic strain, they low-ball remittance estimates, and the number of illegal aliens in California is realistically at least double the numbers used.
How Do We Fix The Problems With Illegal Immigration?
Frankly, the only way to do it is to deport the illegal immigrants, starting with the criminals.
This is not a moral question, it’s a question of fact—California can’t continue to support a massive population of undocumented migrants on the public expense.
The costs are too great, and it’s seriously impacting the quality of life of America’s own people—particularly black and Hispanic American citizens, who often directly compete with illegal immigrants for jobs.
Deportation may sound bad, but it needs to happen. And if we’re being honest, most would probably self-deport if California were to stop subsidizing their living expenses, and the government cracked down on employers who hire illegals.
No jobs, no welfare: no reason to stay.
The second element is to make sure we keep them out. America needs to invest more in border security, and this includes a wall.
There’s a reason the East Germans built the Berlin wall: it worked.
If you liked this article, be sure to check out NEE’s analysis of the cost of illegal immigrants in Texas.