Thursday, April 05, 2007

The High Cost of Low-Skilled Immigrants

One of the arguments that "open borders" advocates on the right like to advance for allowing the U.S. to be invaded by millions of unskilled workers from the Third World is that these people will "do jobs Americans are unwilling to do." What that really means, of course, is that the immigrants will work at jobs that Americans are very willing to do for much, much lower wages than Americans (who are used to a certain standard of living) are willing to accept. The idea, then, is to undercut American labor in favor of a foreign workforce who are less likely to unionize or complain - a new peasant class, if you will. The "open borders" right (as represented by the Wall Street Journal crowd) argues that this benefits Americans in the long run by lowering prices for goods and kicking in new tax dollars. Unfortunately, as most people already suspected, that argument is hogwash. A new study by the Heritage Foundation finds that low skilled immigrant workers cost the state and local governments $3 for every $1 they pay in taxes.

Using data from 2004, the report shows the average household headed by a low-skilled worker paid $9,689 in taxes but received $32,138 in benefits a year. The more than $22,000 difference is the "tax burden" which rises to $1.1 million over the worker's lifetime.

The cost to state and local governments come from "Medicaid, food stamps, public housing and other welfare programs." Since low-skilled immigrants receive more in benefits than they pay in taxes, that means all other taxpayers are subsidizing immigrants and their families through taxes, which helps explain why so many areas of the country are witnessing steep state and local tax hikes. In short, you may save money on produce or lawncare because of the large number of low skilled immigrants, but you will end up paying it all back in taxes to support their growing families. Since Latinos, who comprise the largest group of immigrants, don't seem to rise up the economic ladder nearly as quickly as other groups (Asians, for instance), taxpayers will likely be supporting those ever-growing families for generations.

In 2004, according to the Heritage Foundation report, the country had 17.7 million low-skilled households that together cost taxpayers $397 billion that year. Those households, without an influx of new unskilled workers, will cost at least $3.9 trillion over the next 10 years.

Worse, while you are paying ever-higher taxes to support the massive wave of immigrants, they will be busy changing America to better resemble the Third World nations from which they come. Economic conservatives and libertarians who support mass immigration and open borders make the mistake of assuming that all people are essentially the same and that culture is unimportant. They are very wrong.


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