$130.95 million? Cost estimate of illegal immigrants to Indiana debated
Posted: 07/22/2012 at 1:15 am
By: Tim Vandenack
A University of Notre Dame immigration expert, on the other hand, wonders if the figure takes into account the taxes undocumented immigrants pay.
Either way, the study has raised questions, and the thorny and charged issue of what undocumented immigrants actually cost society seems to be as cloudy as ever.
Even so, Indiana Sen. Mike Delph, R-Carmel, who authored the 2011 law requiring the cost study, doesn’t get too worked up. Senate Enrolled Act 590, which contains a long list of measures meant to crack down on illegal immigration, called for the Indiana Office of Management and Budget to conduct the study and the agency released its report June 29.
The OMB’s $130.95 million estimate is low, Delph thinks. He noted a 2010 study by the Federation for American Immigration Reform, or FAIR, that put the estimated cost to local and state government in Indiana at $608 million per year.
But he tells people “not to get too exercised about the number.” The significant thing is the apparatus of the state government did a study and it came up with a cost estimate.
Allert Brown-Gort, a faculty fellow at Notre Dame’s Kellogg Institute for International Studies, wonders if the OMB report factored the sales, income and property taxes undocmented immigrants pay.
“Are they being taken into account?” said Brown-Gort, who specializes in immigration issues. “If they aren’t being taken into account, there’s a problem with accounting.”
WHERE THE COSTS ARE
The OMB report, as it turns out, doesn’t factor the taxes undocumented immigrants pay.
What it does do is estimate the amount of state funds used to cover expenses attributable to undocumented immigrants in several categories. Of the $130.95 million, the OMB said:
• $110.64 million is attributable to k-12 public education costs. Citing a Pew Hispanic Report estimate that put the illegal immigrant population in Indiana at 110,000, 1.7 percent of the state’s 2010 population, the study extrapolates to estimate the number of illegal immigrant public school students at 17,568, around 1.7 percent of the 1,035,534 total.
• $12.34 million covers incarceration costs at Indiana Department of Correction facilities. The report said there were 661 undocumented immigrants in state facilities as of June 1.
• $3.4 million covers Medicaid costs. Undocumented immigrants, in certain circumstances, are eligible for Medicaid coverage in emergencies.
• $3.08 million covers Indiana Department of Child Services Child in Need of Services, or CHINS, cases. The number of illegal immigrant children getting such services isn’t tracked, but the OMB, again extrapolating from the Pew population estimate, figures they account for 1.7 percent of the caseload.
• $1.49 million, DCS youth probation costs. Using the Pew figure, the OMB estimates undocumented immigrants account for 1.7 percent of the total caseload.
The OMB determined there were no costs attributable to undocumented immigrants in higher education, unemployment insurance or in temporary assistance for needy families.
Being focused on expenses to state government, the study didn’t look at costs of illegal immigration to local government, as the FAIR study did. It also didn’t look at costs incurred by the Indiana court system.
For what it’s worth, the $130.95 million figure amounts to just 0.94 percent of the state’s total estimated $14 billion general fund appropriation for fiscal year 2012. The $110.64 attributable to k-12 schooling costs represents 1.77 percent of the $6.26 billion appropriation for education in the state for 2012.
One of the notable differences with the 2010 study by FAIR is that the FAIR study also considered the costs attributable to U.S.-born children of undocumented immigrants, figuring they wouldn’t be here if their parents hadn’t made the foray to the United States. FAIR is a Washington D.C.-based group that calls for stricter action in cracking down on illegal immigrants.
Accordingly, FAIR estimated k-12 schooling costs in Indiana at $372.9 million compared to the OMB number, $110.64 million.
FAIR also tried to figure the property, income and sales taxes illegal immigrants pay locally and statewide, estimating the number at $38.1 million. If accurate, that would reduce FAIR’s $608 million cost estimate for Indiana to a net $569.9 million.
In the final analysis, Jack Martin, director of special projects at FAIR and author of that group’s cost study, said the OMB estimate is “not an exhaustive total.”
Brown-Gort thinks the OMB study probably reflects neither true costs or true benefits. Broadly, society, as a whole, benefits from lower costs and services that result from illegal immigration, he thinks. The wealther classes, in general, benefit more, while the advantage narrows further down the wage scale, maybe even disappears for those at the bottom of the spectrum.
The OMB sent a bill to the federal government for the $130.95 million it estimates undocumented immigrants cost. Delph, the state senator, doesn’t suspect Indiana will get paid, but billing the feds underscores his belief that illegal immigration costs stem from inaction on the matter by federal lawmakers.