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How Much Do Illegal Immigrants Pay in Taxes?

FILE - Demonstrators confront each other, Friday, July 4, 2014, outside a U.S. Border Patrol station in Murrieta, Calif. Demonstrators on both sides of the immigration debate had gathered where the agency was foiled earlier this week in an attempt to bus in and process some of the immigrants who have flooded the Texas border with Mexico. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
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The American race for president has put immigration to the top of the national conversation.

Some candidates argue that immigrants are a drag on U.S. taxpayers.

Illegal immigrants cost the U.S. economy about $113 billion every year, said a report released by the Federation for American Immigration Reform in 2010.

That conservative group, which supports stronger limits on immigration, said state and local governments pay most of the cost.

But how much do illegal immigrants pay in taxes?

According to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, a non-partisan research group, about $11.64 billion a year in state and local taxes.

Matt Gardner is the executive director of the Institute. He says it is difficult to know the exact costs of illegal immigration. He says many estimates are guesses.

But he says he believes illegal immigrants pay a lot of tax.

“If you listened to the policy debates that are happening -- whether it’s from candidates or from people who are already in office -- you would think the answer is ‘zero.’

“It’s a lot bigger than zero ... $11.6 billion a year is a meaningful amount of revenue for state and local governments,” he says.

The institute estimates that illegal immigrants would pay about $2.1 billion dollars more if they were permitted to work legally.

There are more than 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States. They are about 3.5 percent of the nation’s population. Most of them live in California, Texas, Florida, New York, New Jersey and Illinois. About half are Mexican.

In a 2007 report, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that legal and illegal immigrants pay more tax than the cost of services they are given.

The same report found that on the state and local level, illegal immigrants paid less tax than the what they took in services.

I’m John Russell.

Dora Mekouar reported on this story from Washington. Christopher Jones-Cruise adapted her report Learning English. Kathleen Struck was the editor.

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Words In This Story

conversation - n. a talk or discussion involving to or more people

drag - n. someone or something that makes action or progress slower or more difficult

guesses - n. predictions

revenue - n. money that is made by or paid to an organization or business

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