- Valdosta, Ga. - July 04, 2012 -
No one really knows how much illegal immigration costs American taxpayers. Some say they drain the economy. Others say they bolster it.
Research shows Florida and Georgia taxpayers lose tens of millions of dollars every year due to illegal immigration, and billions nationwide. But where does that cost come from?
While many believe much of the burden comes from undocumented immigrants not paying taxes, some researchers disagree.
"Two-thirds of all undocumented workers pay into Medicare, Social Security and they pay income tax," said Tom Hochschild, VSU Sociology Professor.
In fact it's true many undocumented immigrants do pay taxes. They pay federal, state and sales tax. But there's no way to know how much.
"Undocumented workers brought in more money than they took out," said Hochschild.
By some estimates, undocumented immigrants actually pump in over $400 million tax dollars more than they use in a year. That's a lot of extra money.
"Anybody who is buying anything in the United States is paying sales tax. So whether it's buying gasoline, clothing or cigarettes everybody pays sales tax," Hochschild said.
Then there's property tax. Wherever the undocumented immigrant lives someone is paying Uncle Sam for that property.
Now Social Security tax is a tricky one. Immigration experts say they often get fake Social Security cards and end up paying into them. In fact the Social Security Administration estimates about 50% of undocumented immigrants pay into Social Security every year.
They know that in 2009 just over two million paid with an I-10. But that is for documented and undocumented both. There is no way to know how many were undocumented immigrants.
The population of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. continues to explode. And that is costing Americans big money in the form of border patrol, emergency medical care and incarceration.
Commander Brian Childress with the Valdosta Police Department says detaining undocumented immigrants is a something they do strictly by the book.
"We're not going to stop someone just because they look a certain way. We don't do that here and never will," said Commander Childress.
Some concerns have been raised about racial profiling by police in light of Georgia's recent immigration law. It shares many provisions with Arizona's law which was just dissected by the Supreme Court. In both states, law enforcement are empowered to run immigration checks on anybody they arrest or detain, even for minor traffic offenses.
"We're going to stop you if we have reasonable suspicion that a crime has been committed or is about to be committed. Or if there's probable cause that a crime is being committed. If we determine they're not supposed to be in the United States we'll notify immigration. If they decide they want to deport them than so be it," said Commander Childress.
Now Medical Care for illegals can be a big drain. Most of them do not have medical care, so they frequently go through the emergency room where costs are much higher.
However, some find alternatives like immigrant clinics that treat undocumented workers. One clinic worker in South Georgia tells us roughly 90% of his clients are undocumented.
"They're working in the fields, growing tomatoes, pears, onions. These are jobs that most Americans don't want," Hochschild said.
Like it or not, many Florida and Georgia farms depend on undocumented workers. They are often inexpensive and hard working.
The true cost of illegal immigration is unknown. Because illegal immigrants are undocumented it is very challenging for experts to get an actual tally.