U.S. Taxpayers Have Spent More Than $80 Billion on Dreamers
K-12 education, WIC, Medicaid for illegal immigrants brought as children adds up to large price tag
On his Fox News show last week, Tucker Carlson took on the illegal immigrants who shouted down House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi at her press conference, saying most are “benefiting in a lot of ways from U.S. society, which is the richest in the world.”
“I never hear a single person say ‘thank you.’ Why not?” he asked his guest, an illegal immigrant activist.
On a Facebook page called DACA Dreamers Only, several young adults who are in DACA — the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program — insist they've worked for everything they've gotten, and haven't received any government handouts.
"All day long I hear ppl say 'illegals get free health insurance, Medicaid, food stamps, welfare.' Anyone's state gives out free welfare services? I know mine don't," one person wrote.
"It is common knowledge that we can't take advantage of many of the programs such as welfare and Medicare, yet many believe that we do. We are not taking advantage of anyone and all we want is a chance," another one wrote.
But illegal immigrants do get several kinds of welfare, much of it through their U.S.-born children, and a study by the Center for Immigration Studies showed that 62 percent of households headed by an illegal immigrant received some type of welfare. In addition, U.S. taxpayers have spent billions of dollars a year for K-12 education for illegal immigrants, about 690,000 of whom have qualified for DACA.
The Trump administration rescinded the DACA program this month, but with a six-month wind-down period to give Congress a chance to pass a version of the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, which would give legal status to all those eligible for DACA and other illegal immigrants who meet certain criteria, and allow them to apply to become citizens after a few years.
But how much have U.S. taxpayers spent on the DACA beneficiaries so far? How many benefits have DACA beneficiaries collected while in the U.S. illegally?
The biggest benefit illegal immigrants in DACA have gotten by far is a K-12 education in American schools, with extra services provided to them for ELL (English Language Learner) programs, and other programs offered through schools that include school lunch, school breakfast, in many places, summer meals, and reduced or free after-care and summer camp. The total school-related benefits amount to the year-round care and feeding of hundreds of thousands of children whose parents are living and working in the country illegally.
The average per-pupil cost of K-12 education in public schools in America is over $12,000, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. But more is spent, on average, on immigrant children.
According to the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), the cost to educate ELL students who have limited English-language ability is, on average, 20 percent higher than for regular students. In some school districts, it's as much as 50 percent higher.
ELL costs nationwide totaled 59.8 billion in 2016.
"The brunt of these costs consist of providing salaries, benefits and/or training to hundreds of thousands of LEP teachers and programs, followed by additional funding for tutoring, bilingual textbooks and material, additional administrative tasks and facility enlargement/enhancement needed to incorporate the increased number of students," wrote the authors of the 2016 FAIR report "Elephant in the Classroom: Mass Immigration's Impact on Public Education."
As of September 4, there are 689,800 people in DACA. They are between the ages of 15 and 36. The largest group of them — 253,000 — are between the ages of 21 and 25, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). A total of 65 percent of DACA recipients are 25 or under. The great majority are originally from Mexico.
To qualify for DACA, a person had to have resided in the U.S. continuously since 2007, and had to be enrolled in either school or a training program or have graduated from high school.
According to USCIS, 253,100 DACA recipients are 21 to 25 years old, and would have therefore attended four years at an American high school. Another 196,500 DAC recipients are now 16-20 years old and therefore would have gone to an American school for at least eight years. An additional 2,000 DAC recipients are under 16, and would have spent at least 10 years in American schools. Multiplying the numbers by $12,000 per pupil per year brings the cost to about $31.25 billion — which is the most conservative estimate — and is likely to be underestimating the amount that U.S. taxpayers have paid for the schooling for DACA recipients.
K-12 Education $31.25 billion
School lunches $20 billion
Welfare $30 billion
This is not counting free school meals.
Harvard University researcher Roberto Gonzales found in a study of DACA recipients that 73 percent qualified for free lunch in high school, based on their low family income.
In 2016 the U.S. spent $18 billion on the school lunch program, double the $7.5 billion that it had spent in 2000. The dramatic increase is thought to be due largely to the increase in the number of children in U.S. schools where there are either illegal immigrants or the children of illegal immigrants.
Another huge benefit the illegal aliens now in DACA have collected is in-state tuition at public universities and colleges in the 21 states that now offer in-state tuition for undocumented students.
DACA recipients might not consider that a benefit — but on average, people paying in-state tuition are only paying about a third of the total cost of their education, with the rest paid for by the state.
"If you're only covering about a third of the tuition yourself, then somebody else is paying for the rest. Taxpayers," said Ira Mehlman, spokesman for FAIR.
"It's a huge government benefit," he told LifeZette. "Most government benefits don't come in the form of a check with your name on it."
And setting aside education, a lot of illegal immigrants are receiving actual welfare, often through their children. But not always.
WIC, the food program that provides coupons for free food to women and their children, does not require a person to be a U.S. citizen to qualify.
A study by Steven Camarota of the Center for Immigration Studies showed that 62 percent of all households headed by an illegal immigrant got some kind of welfare. Almost 23 percent of them got WIC and more than 22 percent of them got food stamps (EBT) — most through their U.S.-born children.
In addition, almost all prenatal care and births by illegal immigrants in the U.S. are covered by Medicaid, as the beneficiary is considered to be the future U.S. citizen who is to be born.
Jason Richwine and Robert Rector estimated in a 2013 report for The Heritage Foundation that in 2010, the average household headed by an illegal immigrant household received close to $25,000 in government benefits and paid, on average, about $10,000 in taxes, a deficit of about $14,000 per household.
So how much have DACA recipients collected in welfare and other benefits paid for by U.S. taxpayers? Likely more than $100 billion in benefits, including K-12 education, school lunches and actual welfare (WIC, food stamps, Medicaid, etc.).
But as government numbers are not available, it is almost impossible to know exactly how much illegal immigrants who now have DACA have benefited from being in the U.S. illegally.
"They should be looking at it, but they're not," said Jessica Vaughan of the Center for Immigration Studies, referring to the federal government.
An email query to USCIS for information about government expenditures on DACA recipients was not answered on Monday.
(photo credit, homepage and article images: Molly Adams, Flickr)