New Pew Report Profiling Illegal Population Provides Glimpse of Impact on American Workers and Taxpayers

taxesA new report by Pew Research Center about the estimated 8.1 million illegal aliens working in the U.S. tells us two important things: 1) They are significantly undercutting job opportunities for American workers in formerly middle class trades. 2) Granting amnesty to them would cost American taxpayers trillions of dollars over the course of the illegal aliens’ lifetimes.

Citing its own previous research, Pew notes that “unauthorized immigrants are far less educated, on average, than legal immigrants or the U.S.-born; they are both more likely not to have graduated high school and less likely to have attended college. That, and limits due to their status, helps explain their concentration in low-skilled occupations.” Granting them amnesty would give them legal status in the United States, but it would not change the fact that they are far less educated and therefore destined to continue to be relegated to low-skilled (and low-wage) occupations. The biggest difference is that they would become eligible for to access countless federal, state and local means-tested benefit programs and services.

The report also confirms that illegal aliens are wreaking havoc on the livelihoods of workers who used to earn solid middle class wages in blue collar trades. Illegal aliens now comprise about 14 percent of the construction industry labor force nationally. But in areas of the country experiencing construction booms, the impact is significantly greater. In California, 21 percent of construction industry jobs were held by illegal aliens. According to the Los Angeles-based Economic Roundtable, 143,900 such jobs were part of the underground economy, i.e. performed by illegal aliens. Moreover, the reliance on illegal workers is not due to a shortage of an available legal labor force. The Economic Roundtable found that between 1968 and 2012, “an annual average of 20 percent of construction workers were not employed.”

Aside from California construction trade professionals who lost out on jobs and wages, the 143,900 “underground” jobs affected just about everyone else in the state, as well as taxpayers in the rest of the country. The Roundtable’s “conservative” estimates of the annual costs include:

  • $473 million in lost tax revenue to California (not that anyone in Sacramento seems to care).
  • $301 million in lost federal tax revenue (not that anyone in the Obama administration seems to care).
  • $63 million in lost contributions to the California’s unemployment insurance fund.
  • $146 million in lost state disability insurance contributions.
  • $264 million in lost workers’ compensation contributions.

Contrary to arguments made by amnesty advocates, legalizing all these workers would not likely restore this lost revenue, or shift many of these jobs to the above ground economy. As we are already seeing, just the talk of amnesty is triggering a new wave of illegal immigration and, with virtually no threat of enforcement against employers who hire them, it is all but certain that these jobs will be filled by the next wave of illegal workers.

About Author


Ira joined the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) in 1986 with experience as a journalist, professor of journalism, special assistant to Gov. Richard Lamm (Colorado), and press secretary of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. His columns have appeared in National Review, LA Times, NY Times, Washington Post, Newsweek, and more. He is an experienced TV and radio commentator.


  1. avatar

    It’s local County property owners who get stuck with most of the bill for welfare, healthcare and education for illegals and is why broke santuary states want to Federalize it so non-santuary states can be taxed with money shipped to the santuary states to pay for their folly.

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  3. avatar
    GeorgeTyrebyter on

    Oregon has shown what popular will is. They passed a law 2:1 forbidding the state to grant drivers licenses to illegals. Other states need to do the same. There is a myth that Americans support illegals. This is false. Americans do not favor, support, or condone illegals and their criminal acts. We need more popular initiatives like that in OR.

    • avatar

      You are exactly correct. We cannot trust these lying politicians. Look at Rubio. The press misperception is that he has only flip flopped one time on the issue of amnesty. That’s wrong because he ran for the Senate in 2010 as opposed to amnesty, then supported it once he got in, and now claims he’s against it, again.

      About half the states have some kind of petition process to put issues directly on the ballot. Once passed only the voters can then change them. And the thing is, Oregon is a blue liberal state. The last time they voted Republican in a presidential race was in the 80s. It tells you something when they forbid licenses to illegals by 2 to 1.

      • avatar
        Jim in Virginia on

        Add Scott Walker to that list. He isn’t trust worthy. When talking to the big business people, those with all the money, he says he supports a path to legalization of the illegals now in the country. Looks like there won’t be a Republican worth voting for in 2016.

        • avatar

          The only one I would believe is Jeff Sessions. I disagree with a lot of what he supports but on immigration he has never changed and I don’t think he would. He’s not bought off by the corporations on the issue.

  4. avatar

    We are doomed to let these people in because of the Statue of Liberty states we will accept everybody. We need to get started with a peaceful riot on Washington, D.C. And bring the congress to their knees. I don’t know where these people are going to get jobs when there is none to be found. We have people living in their cars and families living in shelters because they lost their job and couldn’t get welfare because they had nice things, we have over populated and now we are going to suffer with higher taxes because of these illegal aliens, I say we change the writing on the Statue of Liberty, that says no more jobs, no more room. We need to get the troops back home and defend our borders instead of fighting other nations problems. I for one don’t want my daughter to suffer Judy because they can’t work and living of welfare because they have never worked a day in their lives in America, we can’t afford to increase our taxes just to provide them with welfare. Peaceful riot is what we need. Close our borders down now. I mean NOW.

  5. avatar
    Raul Allegre on

    The left has no trouble denying this or any report, so don’t get your hopes up. They’ll pee on your leg and tell you it’s raining, if you know what I mean. Look at how Hillary was just caught red-handed setting up an email server in her house to conduct government business on. They’re denying, spinning, dissembling, etc… like there’s no tomorrow. They never admit anything or apologize for anything.

  6. avatar

    The posted statistics that i just read on your web site are cause for deep depression. I have had it paying taxes for the illegals. One of their greatest supporters of the Hispanics are the Catholic Charities, and the Hispanic priests. The illegals are well informed to connect with the Church. In no time, they have more subsidies, food stamps, rental than our American citizens. The evil tongued devil that is in the American tax payers White House continues on the pathway of disrupting our country.
    1. My recommendations is: Vote for the most Anti illegal candidate for presidency.
    2. Start a log of the known illegals
    3. Swear in the Republic President
    4. Immediately gather up the illegals and deport them, mark them indelible ink and get them out of the country immediately, even they do not have time to pack their bags. Absolutely no “bleeding hearts”. ( We can’t break up a family. Well than pack up their offerings– DO NOT NEGOIATE! When the sperm donor illegals arrive, there in no shortage to find a receptcle to procreate an Anchor baby. We taxpayers will be engaged in taking care of them from birth until death. Funerals are not cheap! BHO will continue to get the illegals here. The Constitution states deportation is the consequences.

  7. avatar

    That’s All America Needs Right Now

    No manufacturing base and a scarce service job market. Unskilled workers pouring into America now is the last straw. Did anyone say “automation”?

  8. avatar

    It’s going to be very hard for those on the left to dismiss this report because Pew is such a widely respected organization and often quoted by the “mainstream” media. They can’t say “this is just more talking points by a right wing organization”. Of course, the facts have no bias, right or left. They are what they are.