Illegal Immigrants Cost Illinois $3.85 Billion A Year—State On Verge Of Bankruptcy

Chicago march in support of illegal immigrants in Illinois

Illegal Immigration Costs Illinois Nearly 10% of Projected Spending—State on Verge of Bankruptcy

When people think of Illinois, illegal immigration is probably not the first thing that comes to mind.

Most probably think of Chicago, Lincoln, Oprah, Obama, something like that.

Beyond that, most probably wouldn’t think Illinois has a problem with illegal immigrants—after all they’re right in America’s heartland, far away from the southern border.

Well, they do.

According to the Migration Policy Institute, Illinois has the fifth highest illegal immigrant population of any state in the country.  And they are suffering because of it.

In light of their recent deliberations over declaring bankruptcy (they would be the first state to do so in the 21st century), I think it’s important to bring to light how much illegal immigration actually costs Illinois, because if we’ve learned anything from California and Texas, illegal immigration doesn’t come cheap.

Illegal Immigrants Cost Illinois $3.85 Billion A Year

Illegal immigration costs Illinois $3.85 billion per year—this is money that Illinois just cannot afford.

Illinois is currently within a budget crisis; they haven’t passed a budget for the last two fiscal years.  Their state debt is above $64 billion and their credit rating is BBB-.  They have racked up over $15 billion in unpaid bills and $130 billion in unfunded pension liabilities.

Needless to say Illinois needs every dollar it can get its hand on. Unfortunately, many billions of dollars’ worth of government services (that are meant for citizens) are going towards illegal immigrants.  These wasted dollars, and increased demand,  reduces the quality of Illinois’ healthcare, education, and administrative services.

Illegal immigrants in Illinois (like the rest of the United States) take out more than they pitch in.

The numbers speak for themselves.

How Many Illegal Immigrants Live In Illinois?

Before getting into the numbers, we have to answer the question: how many illegal immigrants live in Illinois?  It’s a tough one.

The reason?  Well, undocumented immigrants are just that: undocumented.  At best we can make an educated guess.

To begin with, estimates regarding America’s illegal alien population are also all over the place.  For example, Pew Research says that the illegal immigrant number for the entire United States has been hovering somewhere around 11.1 million illegals for over a decade.  This is similar to estimates from the US government and the Migration Policy Institute.

However, I personally think the number of illegal aliens in America is a lot higher (at least 30 million).  Ann Coulter makes a compelling case for this higher number in her book Adios America, where she calculates the alien population from scratch, using remittance payments, ICE migration projections, and government services demand.

However, in the interest of impartiality, I will be using the lower estimates for the articles’ calculations.

Now, that 11.1 million is for the entire United States.  How many illegal immigrants live in the state of Illinois?

The Migration Policy Institute estimates that there are 519,000 illegal immigrants residing in Illinois.  On top of that, Illinois is home to 198,000 children of illegal immigrants (174,000 of whom are anchor babies).

So, on the low estimate, that leaves us with 717,000 illegal immigrants and their children living in Illinois.

Given that the population of Illinois is only 12.8 million people, this is no small number.

Illinois is already hemorrhaging residents because of high tax rates, high unemployment, terrible crime rates, and fiscal mismanagement that’s putting the state on the verge of bankruptcy.  The last thing Illinois needs is to be spending excessive quantities of taxpayer dollars on illegal immigrants.

Yet that’s exactly what it’s doing.

Illegal immigration has many downsides. For a comprehensive discussion on illegal immigration (and one that reflects the personal stance of the author), check out our article on why illegal immigration needs to be stopped.

Now let’s calculate exactly how much Illinois spends on illegal immigrants.

Calculating The Cost Of Illegal Immigration In Illinois

Just like in California and Texas, educating illegal immigrants and their children is the single greatest expense.  Public schooling is expensive, and generally given freely to students, whether here illegally here or not.

Illegal immigrants also absorb considerable healthcare costs, since they are less likely to have insurance, and more likely to use emergency services because of that.  Other major costs include increased policing and incarceration, and various administrative costs.

Let’s get into it.

Illinois Spends $1.41 Billion On Education Illegal Immigrants and Anchor Babies

As mentioned above, there are 174,000 anchor babies and 24,000 “undocumented” children living in Illinois.  This equates to 198,000 children that are (mostly) educated on the public dime; and they get the exact same quality of education as per the Illinois State Board of Education’s guidelines:

School districts are prohibited from requiring Social Security numbers, which are not required to determine eligibility for any education benefits (including pre-K services) or other benefits, such as free or reduced lunch. Schools are required to provide undocumented immigrant students all the same benefits and services made available to other students.

The Illinois State Board of Education does not keep a separate category for undocumented children when it calculates costs.  However, we do know that the total enrollment for Illinois in 2016 for public schooling was 1,929,660 students from K-12.

We also know that the vast majority of illegal immigrants attend public schools, meaning that around 10.3% of children educated in Illinois are either illegal immigrants or anchor babies.

Therefore, roughly 1 in 10 k-12 students in Illinois are there because of illegal immigration.

Now, before I get to the exact costs just a brief background on Illinois.  The last fiscal budget that actually passed was back in 2015.  Since then, only separate education budgets have been passed and the state is actually on the verge of bankruptcy.  You can read more about that mess here.

Moving on, even without a budget the comptrollers office allocated $13.7 billion for education in 2016 (which would likely be much higher if the state wasn’t in turmoil).  This number is bare bones, and does not include supplemental English lessons, outside of school spending, grants, etc.

This is also down from the last budget Illinois actually had, which allocated $16.5 billion for education back in 2015, which was itself down $1.4 billion from 2011.  The picture isn’t pretty, and it’s getting worse.

Given that 10.3% of the students are there because of illegal immigration, they account for $1.41 billion in additional education costs.

This hard cost, which is already quite steep, doesn’t take into account the potential secondary effects that extra students have on the education system such as overcrowding, language barriers, and general disorder.  These soft factors could end up costing billions more, and are partly to blame for children being “left behind” by the education system.

For a broad discussion on these soft factors, check out the additional considerations at the end of our similar article calculating the cost of illegal immigrants in Texas.

Either way, it’s clear that Illinois’ schools are bad, and illegal immigrants aren’t helping.  For example, Illinois’ education system is heavily regressive, and only 25% of students in Chicago’s lowest performing schools meet state standards.  This means that in Chicago alone, over 21,000 students are being left behind by the education system.

Finally, this analysis doesn’t include the costs associated with state spending on higher education ($1 billion), a proportion of which undoubtedly goes to illegal immigrants and their children.

Basically, illegal immigration contributes to the high cost and low quality of education in Illinois.

Healthcare For Illegal Immigrants In Illinois: $725 Million

In addition to educating illegal immigrants, Illinois also provides healthcare for them.  This increases the patient load on hospitals, increases wait times, and lowers the overall quality of care.

As of 2013, the Federation for American Immigration Reform estimated that illegal immigrants cost Illinois $725 million in healthcare expenses.  This included Medicare and Medicaid costs, as well as emergency medical services given directly to illegal immigrants.

However, this is likely a low estimate.

It doesn’t take into a litany of factors (which are described in our analysis of this subject for Texas).  For example, opportunity costs, pain and suffering from long waiting times, and overall snowball effect due to increased patient load and worsened overall care compound into potentially billions of dollars worth of lost value.

Remittance Payments: $694 Million

For a very detailed explanation of remittances, check out our California article.

Basically, remittances are the money that is sent to foreign countries by people living in the US.  Remittance payments cause a net loss of billions of dollars for the US every year.

In fact just in 2015, American lost $133.6 billion in remittances according to Pew Research.

Of this, $40.9 billion was sent directly to Mexico and Central America.  But we can’t assume that all of this money was sent by illegal immigrants since legal immigrants send remittances too.  To estimate illegal immigrant remittances specifically, I will estimate that illegal immigrants and first generation immigrants send remittances at the same frequency.

This will give us an intentionally low estimate for remittances specifically by illegal immigrants to Mexico and Central America.

The rest is explained in our Texas article:

Given that there are 11.7 million legal immigrants from Mexico, and 3.1 million from Central America living in the USA, this gives as a pool of 14.8 million legal immigrants contributing to the remittance figures.

We also know that 74% of illegal immigrants are from Mexico or Central America, or 8.14 million.

This means that of the total Hispanic population assumed to be paying remittances, 35% are likely illegal immigrants.  This works out to illegals paying out $14.31 billion to the region annually.

Since 76% of Illinois’ illegal immigrants are from Mexico and Central America, and they make up 4.9% of total Hispanic illegal immigrants, we can estimate that remittances by illegals cost Illinois $694 million every year.

It’s not a lot, but it adds up quick in a state that’s already circling the drain.

Crimes Committed by Illegal Immigrants Cost Illinois at Least $380 Million Annually

We already know that Illinois has a major crime problem.

Chicago is one of the most violent cities in the United States—last year was particularly bad, as the city saw more murders than at any point in the last 19 years.  Chicago is the center of debate when it comes to gun violence and homicide rates in major cities.

Basically, it’s bad enough.  They don’t need to throw illegal immigrants into the mix.

So how much does Illinois spend on illegal immigrant crime altogether?

Well it’s hard to say.  The Federation for American Immigration Reform estimates that administration of justice to illegal immigrants costs Illinois $380 million a year.

This includes costs associated with increased policing, court services, and incarceration.

But crime is tricky, because the real costs always tend to be more than what can be accurately estimated.  There are many intangible costs such as lost productivity and wages, unquantifiable things such as pain and suffering, a reduction in social cohesion, property damage, etc.

These intangible costs would likely be much higher than the tangible (and quantifiable) ones.

All this is especially true in Illinois: the state’s police are already overstretched, illegal immigrants may be the straw that’s breaking the camel’s back.

For this estimate we will stick with $380 million in the interest in impartiality, although it could easily be double or triple that.

Government Administration & Services/Public Assistance: $917 Million

The additional money that the government requires to provide care to illegal immigrants is $917 million a year.

This includes the additional cost burdens of up keeping parks, public areas, translators for government services.

It doesn’t include the reduced quality of life for citizens or the systemic strain on governmental services.

Tax Revenue: $273 Million

Illegal immigrants do pay in to the system, just not nearly as much as they take out.  The total taxes illegal immigrants pay via property, sales, and payroll taxes is $273 million—a far cry from the billions they consume.

Annual Net Cost Of Illegal Immigration To Illinois: $3.85 Billion

So there you have it; all totaled, illegal immigration costs Illinois $3.85 billion per year.  This number is a low estimate in a particularly low year because of the budget crisis happening in Illinois currently.

So let’s put that number in perspective.

As mentioned above, Illinois is in a budget crisis and on the verge of bankruptcy.  Their state debt is upwards of $64 billion.  Their credit rating is a BBB-, which is one notch above a junk/non-investment rating.  They are also projected to have their credit further downgraded.

Illinois also has unpaid bills upwards of $15 billion (with $800 million per year just in interest payments) and $130 billion in unfunded pension liabilities.

Hell Illinois can’t even fund its lotteries anymore.


Because Illinois can’t pass a budget.  This doesn’t mean they stop spending though.  In fact, the spending target for Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner is $37.3 billion for the upcoming fiscal year, and the House just agreed to cover $36.5 billion of that.

No matter which way you slice it, or what spending bill passes, illegal immigration will eat roughly 10% of that spending.

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