Deportation Is Much Less Costly than Allowing Illegal Immigrants to Stay

Lifetime fiscal drain on taxpayers is at least 6 times greater than cost of deportation

By CIS on August 3, 2017

WASHINGTON (August 3, 2017) – A new report by the Center for Immigration Studies finds that the average cost of a deportation is much smaller than the net fiscal drain created by the average illegal immigrant. This finding refutes the claim made by immigration enforcement opponents that deporting illegal immigrants is prohibitively expensive, thus requiring amnesty for the population of over 11 million.

By analyzing Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) cost estimates for the average deportation and comparing it to the lifetime fiscal impact of the average illegal immigrant, the report concludes that deportation is much less costly than allowing illegal immigrants to stay in the country.

Dr. Steven Camarota, the Center's director of research and lead author of the report, emphasizes the role education plays: "Because the overwhelming share of illegal immigrants residing in the country have not completed high school or have only a high school education, it would require highly implausible assumptions to avoid a substantial net fiscal drain from this population."

View the entire report at:

Deportation costs:

  • In April of this year, ICE reported that the average cost of a deportation, also referred to as a removal, was $10,854 in FY 2016, including apprehension, detention, and processing.
  • Partly due to policies adopted in the second term of the Obama administration, ICE removed nearly 170,000 fewer aliens in 2016 than in 2012, even though it actually spent 8 percent more in 2016 in inflation-adjusted dollars. The removal of so many more illegal immigrants in FY 2012 means that the average cost per removal in that year was $5,915, adjusted for inflation.
  • If the average cost of a deportation was what it had been in FY 2012, then the larger enforcement budget in FY 2016 would have allowed for 200,000 more removals without spending additional money.

Costs of illegal immigrants:

  • Researchers agree 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 with this level of education are a significant net fiscal drain, creating more in costs for government than they pay in taxes.
  • The National Academies of Sciences estimated the lifetime fiscal impact (taxes paid minus services used) of immigrants based on their educational attainment. Averaging those estimates and applying them to the education level of illegal immigrants shows a net fiscal drain of $65,292 per illegal — excluding any costs for their children.
  • Based on this estimate, there is a total lifetime fiscal drain of $746.3 billion. This assumes 11.43 million illegal immigrants are in the country, based on the U.S. government's most recent estimate.
  • The fiscal cost created by illegal immigrants of $746.3 billion compares to total a cost of deportation of $124.1 billion, assuming a FY 2016 cost per deportation, or $67.6 billion using FY 2012 deportation costs.

Contact: Marguerite Telford
202-466-8185, [email protected]