The Costs of Illegal Immigration to Virginians

The Fiscal Burden of Illegal Immigration on United States Taxpayers, a new detailed fiscal cost study issued in 2010, supersedes the earlier state estimates in this study. The new estimate includes some cost areas not included in the state study below. This earlier state fiscal cost study remains on the website solely for comparison and because it also provides sources and methods of fiscal cost analysis that are not available with the new study.

Virginia has a rapidly growing illegal alien population of about 295,000 persons, nearly tripling since 2000. Since 2000, the state’s foreign-born population has grown by 46.5 percent while its native-born population has grown by 6.5 percent. Similarly, public school enrollment of students who require special instruction in English has also soared, rising by nearly 175 percent over the last decade.

Virginia’s illegal alien population represents a major burden on the state’s taxpayers and on the state budget. These costs imposed on law-abiding Virginians are unfair and unwelcome even in the best of times, but are especially burdensome at a time when the state is confronting a major general fund budget deficit of $1.1 billion.

In 2008, the foreign-born population in Virginia represented nearly one in every nine residents (10.8%), and illegal aliens constitute about one-third (34%) of that immigrant population. Children with at least one immigrant parent accounted for 8.7 percent of the population in 1990, 13.2 percent in 2000, and 17.6 percent of children under age 18 in 2007.

Virginia’s illegal immigrant population costs the state’s taxpayers nearly $1.7 billion per year for education, medical care and incarceration. The annual fiscal burden amounts to about $625 per Virginia household headed by a native-born resident. Even if the estimated taxes collected from illegal immigrant workers are treated as an offset to this fiscal cost — which, as we explain later, makes little sense — net outlays still amount to about $1.5 billion per year.

This information fills a gap noted by the Governor’s Commission on Immigration, established in 2007. Its stated purpose was to study “…the costs and benefits of immigration on the Commonwealth…Specifically, …the impact of immigration on education, health care, law enforcement, local demands for services and the economy…” However, the Commission concluded in its January 2009 report that, “Unfortunately, the resources and time restrictions of the Commission were not conducive to a data analysis of this scope [referring to the Texas Comptroller’s Report on the fiscal impact of illegal aliens].” The Commission did, however, have the resources and time to obtain an estimate of the taxes paid by illegal aliens prepared by The Commonwealth Institute. These estimates showed $145 to $174 million in tax collections, but ignored the other side of the fiscal equation, i.e., the cost of state services used by the same population.

In addition to the fiscal cost estimates in this study, there are additional costs associated with illegal immigration that should be kept in mind by policymakers when they focus on this fiscal cost burden. Foreign remittances sent abroad by the illegal alien population also constitute a major drain on the state’s economy. The Inter-American Development Bank estimated that remittances from Virginia just to Latin America amounted to more than $1.1 billion in 2006. If this amount had been earned by American workers, it would have been spent locally, and it would have generated sales, production and jobs in the state as well as increased tax collection.

The nearly $1.7 billion dollars in costs incurred by Virginia taxpayers annually result from outlays in the following areas:

Based on estimates of the illegal immigrant population in Virginia and documented costs of K-12 schooling, Virginians spend nearly $1.56 billion annually on education for about 95,000 children of illegal aliens. About 70,000 children of illegal aliens are in special English instruction classes, costing the taxpayer an estimated $440 million. Nearly eight percent of the K-12 public school students in Virginia are children of illegal aliens, and nearly three-fourths of them are in Northern Virginia public schools.

Health Care
Taxpayer-funded, unreimbursed medical outlays for health care provided to the state’s illegal alien population amount to nearly $100 million a year.

The cost of incarcerating illegal aliens in Virginia’s state, county, and independent city prisons amounts to more than $45 million a year — not including related law enforcement and judicial expenses or the monetary costs of the crimes that led to the incarceration.

Some state and local taxes are received from illegal immigrants — even from those working off the books. But, those same tax collections, or more likely an increased amount, would occur if the jobs were done by legal workers. So, unless it is assumed that no legal U.S. or immigrant or foreign guestworker would do the jobs now done by illegal workers, it makes little sense to consider this a true offset to the tax burden. The estimated amount of the taxes currently collected from the illegal workers is about $188 million per year.

The fiscal costs of illegal immigration to Virginia’s taxpayers do not end with these three major cost areas. They would be considerably higher if other cost areas such as assistance programs for needy families or welfare benefits for American workers displaced by illegal alien workers were included in the calculation.


Virginia Bill Would Require Schools to Keep Tabs on Cost of Illegal Immigrant Students
By Diane Macedo
Published January 21, 2011
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Todd Gilbert
Delegate Todd Gilbert serves the 15th House District of Virginia including Rappahannock, Shenandoah, Page and Rockingham counties.
As Virginia moves to ban illegal immigrants from enrolling in colleges, one local lawmaker is proposing a bill at the state level that would require schools to report the tally of illegal immigrant students to the state secretary of education.
Todd Gilbert, a member of the Virginia House of Delegates, said under his bill illegal immigrant students will retain the right to receive a public school education but that Virginia taxpayers have a right to know how much the country’s “broken immigration system” is costing them.
Critics say the bill will scare kids away from school and could be unconstitutional. But it is among a string of anti-illegal immigration bills in a legislative package that includes proposals to keep illegal immigrants from finding work in the state of Virginia and bar them from enrolling in state public colleges and universities or receiving any form of public assistance.
The Virginia House of Delegates Republican Majority Caucus on Tuesday announced the legislative package, which includes at least 16 pieces of immigration-related legislation.
“We were the first state in the U.S. to deny illegal aliens drivers licenses, one of the first to deny adult illegal aliens non-emergency tax payer benefits, and one of the leaders in requiring that all people arrested for a crime be checked for their immigration status” but there is more to do, House Courts of Justice Committee Chairman Dave Albo said in a statement.

The proposed new laws “emphasize the need to strengthen the hand of law enforcement to deal with illegal immigration across Virginia while also bringing greater integrity in vetting the legal presence of would-be employees in Virginia through the use of the Federal e-Verify system,” he added.
Among those proposals is the one by Gilbert that would require students enrolling in public schools to indicate their citizenship or immigration status.
The bill provides that the child must still be admitted into public school, but the immigration status information must be reported to the secretary of education annually.
Additionally, the secretary of education must submit an annual report to the governor and the General Assembly on the number of illegal immigrants attending public schools in the state and the cost of their education.
“The idea behind this is just to help demonstrate on behalf of Virginia, and hopefully other states will join in this effort, that there are real world effects of this broken immigration system and that one of the effects is that Virginia is being forced to pay to educate children who would not otherwise be in our public schools were they not here illegally,” Gilbert told
Since 1982 the Supreme Court has required that states and localities educate children without regard to their legal status and Gilbert says he has no intention of challenging that.
“But we think we should at least be armed with the information that will help us at least make the case to the feds that the system’s broken and costing us a lot of money,” he said. “The other side is always talking about the economic benefits of having illegal workers in the country, it’s time to talk about the costs involved too, this is just one of them.”
John Morgan, executive director of the child advocacy group Voices for Virginia’s Children says while he’s sympathetic to the purpose of Gilbert’s bill he believes it will have an unintended but major consequence.
“Because this will require parents to indirectly reveal their own legal status, many of them will perceive this as endangering their ability to remain in this country and therefore opt not to enroll their children in school,” Morgan told “This will create a de facto barrier to public education and deprive innocent children of the schooling so necessary to their development and well-being.”
Ilya Shapiro, senior fellow in constitutional studies at the Cato Institute says he shares Morgan’s concern but believes the bill will stand up in court if passed.
“Because it’s just information collection I see no constitutional issues,” Shapiro told
Shapiro says the legislature may run into legal problems with two other bills — one that requires police to ask everyone arrested about their citizenship and report any non-citizens to Immigration and Customs Enforcement for an inquiry and another that requires certain businesses to enroll in a federal Internet-based system that allows businesses to determine employees work eligibility. Shapiro said the first may be too broad and burdensome to too many people and the second could be overturned by a pending Supreme Court ruling on a similar Arizona employment law.
The remaining bills, he says, “may not be the best policy decisions, but they’re legal.”
They include initiatives to:
• have state police perform certain federal immigration law-enforcement functions
• ban state departments or employee from restricting the enforcement of federal immigration laws, require citizenship or legal presence for public assistance
• make any crime committed in associate with street gangs a Class 5 or Class 4 felony, require the Secretary of Public Safety to establish an information exchange program with all border states to share intelligence on gangs, terror organizations and other illegal activity
• make manufacturing, selling, or transferring a fictitious birth certificate a Class 6 felony, ban illegal immigrants from enrolling in any public institution of higher education in Virginia
• require the Department of Motor Vehicles to cancel any license, permit, or special identification card it has issued to an individual if it is notified by a federal government agency that that individual is an illegal immigrant
Task Force Leader Delegate Scott Lingamfelter says the legislative package is a good one, and he hopes it will spur the federal government to take action.
The federal government’s failure to “secure our borders to address the spillover effects of illegal immigration” dishonors legal immigrants and “we simply cannot and will not stand by and watch the situation deteriorate,” he said in a statement.
Gilbert says his bill is set to be presented at the next committee meeting which has not yet been scheduled.

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