Are Immigrants a fiscal drain on public resources?

The goal of this series is to heighten one’s awareness to the diversity of perspective within the Body of Christ on the issue of immigration, and to provide a synopsis of the differing views of Christians in a way that promotes greater understanding and education. My hope is that even with differing perspectives on immigration policy issues, Christians will see immigrants as people in need of compassionate ministry, love, and respect. They are what all of us were at one time; strangers in need of a place and people.

My previous post addressed the first of two major economic concerns raised when Christians discuss and debate their perspectives on immigration. That post is available here.

The second economic concern is expanded below.

Are Immigrants a fiscal drain on public resources?

James R. Edwards echoes another economic concern often raised by Christians seeking to understand and respond to the immigration issue. “Immigrants who pay few taxes and draw heavily upon public services have been a significant burden on the communities in which they have settled.” [1] Such a problem is met with a mixed response from researchers. One study observes that immigrants do not pose an overall financial burden on the citizenry. However, the same study says in contrast that in a localized context, a concentrated immigrant population can and often does prove to be a financial issue for the community. [2] Such a burden is attributed not to the immigrants themselves, but to insufficient appropriation of resources to these particular geographical areas. However, in many of these locations, immigrants and natives often live in close proximity. The lack of coordination between local, state, and Federal authorities results in insufficient federal funding to these locales. Unfortunately, such problems result in negative perceptions toward immigrants.

In contrast to Edwards’ assumptions regarding the taxes paid by immigrants, Stephen Moore, economist with the Cato Institute, observes that many immigrants do indeed contribute tax revenue toward the public services they use. In fact, Moore finds the average immigrant pays nearly $80,000 more in taxes than they receive in benefits over their lifetime. This is based on the immigrant paying an average of $105,000 more to the federal government than benefits received from the federal government, while receiving on average $25,000 in benefits more from state  and local governments than is paid to state and local governments. [3]

The glaring problem in this comparison is the missing factor of undocumented immigrants. One can do little more than speculate on the extent to which undocumented immigrants impact the economic well-being of native and naturalized citizens. However, the data suggests that immigrants generally have a positive effect on public resources and nation-wide economics. As one author states, “immigrants do not further split up the pie; they enlarge it.” [4] Christians will differ on how to address the economic issues related to immigration policy. But believers can certainly agree that no person, immigrant or native should be measured by their potential capital output, but rather by their status as bearers of God’s image.

 


[1] Carol M. Swain, Debating Immigration (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 60

[2] Pilar Marrero, Killing the American Dream: How Anti-immigration Extremists Are Destroying the Nation (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), 194

[3] Stephen Moore, A Fiscal Portrait of the Newest Americans (Washington, D.C.: National Immigration Forum, 1998), 20.

[4] Tanya Maria. Golash-Boza, Due Process Denied: Detentions and Deportations in the United States (New York: Routledge, 2012), 204

Kevin Glenn

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  • PrescottJayErwin

    The current concern is not about legal immigrants to the U.S., it’s about illegal aliens and illegal migrants. Immigrants are those either engaged in or having completed the process of becoming permanent U.S. citizens. They want to be productive and successful Americans. Neither is the concern for legal migrants. The real concern is about those here illegally with no desire or intent to immigrate. Often they’re called “undocumented immigrants,” but they’re illegal migrants or illegal aliens. ANY assistance they require while here is, by definition, a fiscal drain on public resources — and there’s no way to determine what that cost is because there’s no concensus and no way to measure just how many there are.