WASHINGTON — The state of Texas made more than $420 million off immigrants living in the state illegally in 2018, according to a new Rice University study.
The study, which replicates an outdated state comptroller report, finds that for every $1 the Texas state government spends on the estimated 1.6 million people living in the state illegally, it brings in $1.21 in tax revenue.
While the study found the state economy benefiting from immigrants living in Texas without legal authorization, it did not address one of the greatest costs: Roughly $1 billion in uncompensated health care expenses and law enforcement expenses covered by local governments and not reimbursed by the state.
The study fits into a growing body of research on the boon that immigration can be for the economy, including a recent study that found immigrants in Houston are responsible for more than 26 percent of the area’s gross domestic product and have accounted for a third of the region’s population growth over the past decade.
“Immigration reform in the United States appears nearly impossible today, as it has been for twenty years. The probabilities of it happening may, however, increase if we deal first and separately with the undocumented population through an understanding of what they contribute to the U.S. economy,” the study, by José Iván Rodríguez-Sánchez, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Baker Institute, says. “The Texas case demonstrates that they add more than they take from the economy.”
The study comes as the Trump administration has restricted even legal immigration amid the coronavirus outbreak, arguing in part that it will put a chill on economic recovery, and as Republicans have characterized unauthorized immigrants as a drain on the economy.
Whether or not those living in the country illegally should be included in federal efforts to combat the outbreak and its effects on the economy have become a central sticking point as Congress works on its next relief bill. Democrats are pushing to send stimulus checks to those in the country illegally as Republicans call the idea “outrageous.”