Montana Spends Millions on Illegal Immigrants


State and local spending on illegal immigrants amounts to $32 million a year in Montana.

That's according to a study released this month by the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), a non-profit organization headquartered in Washington, D.C. that advocates for immigration law reform. Critics of the study say it ignores the benefits immigrants bring to the country and presents only one side of the equation.

Nationally, the study estimates Americans spend about $29 billion at the federal level, for services such as education, health care, and the justice system. The study also estimates that illegal immigrants pay $9.5 billion in federal taxes.

If divided evenly among households that pay federal taxes, that cost equates to about $244 per taxpaying household, said Jack Martin, special projects director for FAIR and co-author of the study.

In addition to the federal spending, the study estimates state and local governments spend about $84.2 billion, for a combined total of $113 billion.  

Wendy Sefsaf, communications director for the Immigration Policy Center (IPC), said the FAIR report only examines one side of the issue.

"What they never do is contrast it with contributions," Sefsaf said of the FAIR analysis. "They always look at fiscal costs and we try to bring in benefits to balance it out."

A fact sheet released by the IPC, a non-partisan research and policy center also headquartered in Washington, D.C. says illegal immigrants provide millions of dollars in productivity for the Montana economy.

"If all unauthorized immigrants were removed from Montana, the state would lose $96.3 million in economic activity, $42.8 million in gross state product, and approxi-mately 720 jobs, even accounting for adequate market adjustment time, according to a report by the Perryman Group," the fact sheet states.

Martin said while spending is estimated to be lowest in Montana, there is statistically no significant difference in spending among states with the lowest number of illegal immigrants. Montana is one of seven states that have an estimated illegal immigration population of 5,000 or less. The others are Maine, Nebraska, Vermont, Wyoming, and both Dakotas.

The state with the highest spen-ding on illegal immigrants, accor-ding to the study, is California at $21.8 billion, followed by New York at $9.5 billion, and Texas at $8.9 billion. Those are also the three most populous states. The report does not break down state and local spending on a per capita basis.
That doesn't mean smaller states should not be concerned with the issue, Martin said.

"It's appropriate for policy makers to be concerned about the potential of that number growing unless effective controls...are adopted," Martin said. "The flow of illegal aliens has been spreading out across the country."  

The full FAIR study can be found at: The IPC fact sheet titled New Americans in the Treasure State can be found at:

Montana Watchdog Michael Noyes can be reached at . 








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