Any immigration reform plan that allows the roughly 11 million individuals now in the United States illegally to stay in the country would bring with it a mix of new revenues and increased costs. And as President Obama and a bipartisan group of senators separately press the issue this week, past studies suggest it is doubtful that the fiscal benefits of such policy changes would outweigh the costs.
By legally joining the workforce, the immigrants in question would generate additional and much-needed income tax but also would become eligible for a certain level of government assistance. Research shows creating a path to citizenship for so many illegal immigrants would result in significant costs to state, local and federal governments.
“This doesn’t make them bad people, but (lawmakers) should be honest with the public,” Steve Camarota, director of research for the Washington-based Center for Immigration Studies, says. “Don’t sell them a bill of goods.”
While most studies, including one by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, have focused on the impact at the state and local levels, where most of the socials services for illegal immigrants are provided, Camarota has also looked at the impact on the federal government.