If Trump Wall Could Cut Illegal Immigration By Only 10%, It Would Pay For Itself: CIS Study

BE2C2 Report — U.S. Customs and Border Protection said Friday that it plans to start awarding contracts by mid-April for President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall with Mexico, signaling that he is aggressively pursuing plans to erect “a great wall” along the 2,000-mile border.

The president told the Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday that construction will start “very soon” and is “way, way, way ahead of schedule.”

Many oppose the border wall/fence/barrier, arguing that it would be too expensive — Trump’s stand on illegal aliens notwithstanding.

To counter this argument, the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) has conducted a study which is available on its website. Titled The Cost of a Border Wall vs. the Cost of Illegal Immigration, it has been prepared by CIS Research Director Steven A. Camarota (February 2017) and it deals with the expense argument considering 8 different scenarios.

Camarot argues that, economically, illegal aliens are a net lifetime drain on the U.S. government. Therefore, any wall or barrier, even if it stopped only about 10% of them, would already pay for itself!

This goes against the conventional wisdom that illegal aliens are a great boon to our economy and that we couldn’t make it without them, the author writes. But Camarota, using data from the (NAS) National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine demonstrates that the numbers show the opposite.

According to him,  immigrants without a high school education are a significant net fiscal drain during their lifetimes. That is, they pay less in taxes than they use in services.

Those with only a high school education are a net fiscal drain in seven of the eight scenarios. In contrast, the most educated immigrants, those with at least a bachelor’s degree, are a net fiscal benefit in all eight scenarios.

Data from the Census Bureau shows that 42.4 million immigrants (both legal and illegal) now live in the United States. Illegal albeit undocumented aliens exceed 11.2 million. That’s over 26 percent – nearly half are from Mexico, Central and South America, according to PEW study.

Here’s what CIS study says:

The findings of this analysis show that if a border wall stopped a small fraction of the illegal immigrants who are expected to come in the next decade, the fiscal savings from having fewer illegal immigrants in the country would be sufficient to cover the costs of the wall. This analysis takes the likely education level of illegal border-crossers and applies fiscal estimates developed by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NAS) for immigrants by education level. NAS calculates the future fiscal balance immigrants create — taxes paid minus costs. NAS reports fiscal balances as “net present values”, which places a lower value on future expenditures than on current expenditures. Based on the NAS data, illegal border-crossers create an average fiscal burden of approximately $74,722 during their lifetimes, excluding any costs for their U.S.-born children. If a border wall stopped between 160,000 and 200,000 illegal crossers — 9 to 12 percent of those expected to successfully cross in the next decade — the fiscal savings would equal the $12 to $15 billion cost of the wall.


So Camarota claims illegal aliens are actual net economic drains according to his study, because of their lower levels of education.

Here are the basic calculations Camarota used to prove his point:

  • There is agreement among researchers that illegal immigrants overwhelmingly have modest levels of education — most have not completed high school or have only a high school education

  • There is also agreement that immigrants who come to America with modest levels of education create significantly more in costs for government than they pay in taxes.

  • A recent NAS study estimated the lifetime fiscal impact (taxes paid minus services used) of immigrants by education. Averaging the cost estimates from that study and combining them with the education levels of illegal border-crossers shows a net fiscal drain of $74,722 per illegal crosser.

  • If a border wall prevented 160,000 to 200,000 illegal crossings (excluding descendants) in the next 10 years it would be enough to pay for the estimated $12 to $15 billion costs of the wall.

Meanwhile, the Border Protection agency’s notice gave no details on where the wall would be built first and how many miles would be covered initially.

An internal Homeland Security Department report estimates the cost of extending the wall along the entire U.S.-Mexico border at about $21 billion, according to a U.S. government official who is involved in border issues. The official spoke to Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper on condition of anonymity because the report has not been made public.

Republican leaders in Congress have said Trump’s wall would cost between $12 billion and $15 billion. Trump has suggested $12 billion.

The price tag will depend largely on the height, materials and other specifications that have not yet been defined.

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BE2C2 is a business unit of Irshad Salim Associates  and publishes reports, news, infographics, analytics and analyses based on available data and related information from sources readily available on the web and in the public domain.

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