Biden’s Border Crisis Costs Municipalities $202 Billion

And at least another $159 million per day — caring for migrants ain’t cheap

By Andrew R. Arthur on February 3, 2023

In a recent post, I discussed statements New York City Mayor Eric Adams has made on CBS News concerning the crisis that has swept 43,000 migrants from the Southwest border into his city. As I noted, Adams claimed that NYC would need $2.8 billion in the next fiscal year to handle the flow — a rate of $65,116.27 per migrant. Given that 3.1 million migrants have entered the United States illegally and either evaded apprehension or been caught and released by DHS since Biden took office, that totals out to more than $195 billion in new annual municipal costs — a figure that rises by at least $159 million per day. Caring for migrants plainly ain’t cheap, and detention would be cheaper.

Illegal Entries Under Biden. Since February 2021 (the month after Joe Biden became president) through the end of November 2022, Border Patrol agents at the Southwest border have apprehended more than 4.2 million illegal migrants.

Of those 4.2 million-plus migrants, about 2.039 million were expelled under CDC orders issued pursuant to Title 42 of the U.S. Code in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. That leaves just short of 2.176 million illegal migrants who were processed under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), instead.

Approximately 1.8 million of those migrants processed under the INA were released into the United States. In addition, about 389,000 other illegal migrants (known colloquially as “got-aways”) evaded agents and also entered the country successfully in FY 2021, as did some 599,000 more in FY 2022, and, according to Fox News on January 28, nearly 294,000 others in the first 120 days of FY 2023.

If you add the 1.8 million aliens who have been apprehended and released by CBP to the 1.282 million got-aways since FY 2021, you get to nearly 3.1 million new illegal migrants in the United States under the Biden administration.

The Cost to “Clothe, House, Educate, and Care For” Migrants — Plus Healthcare. Mayor Adams explained that the $2.8 billion NYC will spend on its newcomers in the coming fiscal year includes costs to “clothe, house, educate, and care for” those migrants.

That makes sense. Many if not most of those migrants have come from countries in which quality education is scarce. Moreover, a significant number of them likely left school early to work. Few if any of the children are fluent in English, if they speak it at all, and may not be that skilled in Spanish, either.

They will all require intense training simply to acquire the skills required to advance their educations or acquire remunerative employment. That, in turn, will draw off scarce school resources in localities.

And, again, many if not most of them were probably poor even in the countries from which they came, and most of what little money they did have was likely spent paying the smugglers who brought them to the United States.

According to the United Nations, “Migrants smuggled across the border between Mexico and the United States pay about $2,000, while migrants from beyond Mexico (and thus needing to cross multiple borders) could pay as much as $10,000.” That’s real money in places where daily incomes are just a few dollars.

Consequently, hundreds of thousands of migrants are showing up in the United States without the ability to clothe, feed, or house themselves or their families. Somebody must pay their bills, and in Mayor Adams’ case, that’s NYC itself.

Note that none of those issues is unique to the population of migrants in New York. Newark, N.J., New Orleans, La., Newport News, Va., New Braunfels, Texas, and tens of thousands of other cities and towns across the United States will soon be forced to bear these municipal burdens, assuming they aren’t already.

I was surprised, however, that Adams did not specifically mention one big cost: healthcare. Unlike the United Kingdom and Canada, we don’t have a National Health Service, but that does not mean that localities don’t pay a cost to care for the uninsured.

Few if any of those migrants come to this country with private health insurance, and therefore they will be reliant on hospitals and clinics for their care.

The Emergency Medical Treatment & Labor Act (EMTALA) of 1986 ensures public access to emergency services, regardless of an individual’s ability to pay for those services. More specifically, as the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services explains:

Section 1867 of the Social Security Act imposes specific obligations on Medicare-participating hospitals that offer emergency services to provide a medical screening examination (MSE) when a request is made for examination or treatment for an emergency medical condition (EMC), including active labor, regardless of an individual's ability to pay.

Don’t get the idea that the feds are picking up all those costs, however.

For example, in late December it was revealed that Yuma Regional Medical in the border city of Yuma, Ariz., has had to foot the cost for $20 million in unpaid medical services due to a “massive influx of illegal immigrants over the past six months”. That healthcare burden on Yuma will spread to every place in America soon, as border migrants disperse throughout the country.

The $202 Billion Price Tag — which Increases by $159 Million Every Day. Using Mayor Adams’ figures, each one of those 43,000 migrants in NYC will cost the city, on average, just over $65,000 in the coming fiscal year. Extrapolating those costs over all 3.1 million migrants who have made it to the interior under Biden, you get to a total one-year price tag of just less than $202 billion per year for migrant assistance.

And that figure will simply climb. Fox News reported that got-aways were entering at a rate of 2,450 per day in the first 120 days of this fiscal year. That means that yearly costs to municipalities are increasing every day by more than $159 million, even assuming that Biden’s DHS detains every new apprehended migrant (which it won’t).

To put that into context, Congress in its recent omnibus spending bill appropriated $858 billion for defense spending in FY 2023. In other words, municipal migrant costs are equivalent to more than a fifth of the Pentagon’s entire budget (and aircraft carriers ain’t cheap, either).

Detention Is Cheaper. According to ICE’s FY 2023 budget justification, the estimated average direct adult bed in ICE detention cost less than $150 per day. The Biden administration — unilaterally — stopped detaining families, but in the agency’s FY 2022 budget justification, the administration sought $271 million for 2,500 family beds, a daily cost of about $297 per bed.

Keep in mind, those ICE detention costs include housing, food, education, and healthcare.

If you assumed that all 3.1 million new illegal migrants were in family units, the daily costs of detaining them would be just over $920 million per day, or $336 billion annually. If half were adults and half were in family units, that cost would drop to just over $85 billion.

That’s a lot of money, especially if all of the migrants who come here are in families. If just half were single adults (a much more likely scenario), however, the cost of detention would be less than half of the municipal costs of caring for those migrants once they are released.

The total annual detention cost, however, would be much lower because most of those aliens would not be detained for a full year. In FY 2022, the median time to complete a detained removal case in immigration court was just 43 days.

That means that even assuming all 3.1 million illegal migrants who have entered under Biden were in families, and the median completion time for their cases remained 43 days, the total detention costs would be a lot closer to $40 billion, and if half were single adults the total cost would drop to just less than $30 billion.

Of course, if every one of those 3.1 million migrants were detained, it would take much longer than 43 days to complete their cases. That said, and mindful of the fact that DHS is required to detain all of those aliens, if the Biden administration detained just a fraction of the 3.1 million total, the number of new entrants would drop sharply, because illegal entry would no longer be the “free ticket” to live and work in the United States it is now.

Today It’s NYC, Tomorrow It Will Be Towns and Cities Nationwide. In addition to creating a humanitarian and national-security disaster at the Southwest border, the Biden administration through its feckless policies has also created a municipal spending crisis, as well. The reason the mayor of the world’s financial capital is speaking out about the border is that even NYC can’t pay its migrant costs anymore. Soon, no other city or town will be able to bear those costs, either.