The Florida Senate’s immigration-enforcement bill includes a provision that blames the federal government for failing to enforce immigration laws or enact reforms, and says that failure is taking a toll on state resources. The measure would require the state to calculate the cost of unauthorized immigration and send a bill to the federal government.

Here’s the language (emphasis added):

278 Section 6. (1) The Legislature finds that unauthorized
279 immigration contributes directly and indirectly to substantial
280 costs to the state in policy areas, including, but not limited
281 to, law enforcement, criminal justice, labor and employment,
282 education, health care, and human services. The Legislature
283 further finds that unauthorized immigration and the costs
284 attributable to it are placing a burden on the limited fiscal
285 and human resources of the state and are impairing the economic
286 recovery of the state. Additionally, the Legislature finds that
287 the costs related to unauthorized immigration are exacerbated by
288 the failure of the Federal Government to enforce immigration
289 laws adequately and to adopt and implement comprehensive reforms
290 to immigration laws in order to control and contain unauthorized
291 immigration more effectively.

292 (2)(a) The Agency for Workforce Innovation, in consultation
293 with the Office of Economic and Demographic Research, shall
294 prepare a report by December 1, 2011, quantifying the costs to
295 the state which are attributable to unauthorized immigration.
296 The agency shall submit the report to the Governor, the
297 President of the Senate, and the Speaker of the House of
298 Representatives by that date.

299 (b) Before January 1, 2012, the director of the Agency for
300 Workforce Innovation shall, in consultation with the Office of
301 the Governor, submit to the appropriate federal agency or
302 official a request, based on the total costs quantified under
303 paragraph (a), for reimbursement to the state of those costs or
304 a corresponding reduction in or forgiveness of any debt,
305 interest payments, or other moneys owed by the state to the
306 Federal Government as a result of borrowing from the Federal
307 Government to fund unemployment compensation claims.

What is the cost to the state of Florida? The picture is murky. The Collins Center offers an overview.

Bottom line: Unauthorized immigrants pay taxes and contribute to Social Security. They aren’t eligible for food stamps or Medicaid, but they do use services like schools and hospitals (where they often wind up in emergency rooms because they can’t receive care elsewhere). They can also take up prison space.

Many of the benefits (such as Social Security payments) flow to the federal government, while many of the costs (such as schools) are felt at the state and local level. But unauthorized immigrants do provide some benefits to state and local governments that aren’t mentioned in the bill. For example, they pay sales taxes.

The Collins Center cites a report (.pdf) from the Congressional Budget Office (emphasis added):

The tax revenues that unauthorized immigrants generate for state and local governments do not offset the total cost of services provided to those immigrants. Most of the estimates found that even though unauthorized immigrants pay taxes and other fees to state and local jurisdictions, the resulting revenues offset only a portion of the costs incurred by those jurisdictions for providing services related to education, health care, and law enforcement. Although it is difficult to obtain precise estimates of the net impact of the unauthorized population on state and local budgets, that impact is most likely modest.

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