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May 1, 2006 10:12 pm US/Mountain

Study: Illegal Immigrants Cost Government Billions

Jim Benemann

(CBS4) DENVER An independent, non-partisan and non-profit research organization conducted a study that showed the economic impact illegal immigrants have in the United States.

The study is called "The High Cost of Cheap Labor" and was conducted by the Center of Immigration Studies.

In 2002, households headed by undocumented workers accounted cost the federal government more than $26 billion in services. Those households paid $16 billion in taxes and created a net fiscal deficit for the government of almost $10.4 billion or about $2700 per household.

The largest costs were for Medicaid, treatment for the uninsured, and food assistance programs, including food stamps and free school lunches.

Even though illegal immigrants can't access programs for federal aid, their children who were born in the U.S. are able to.

The non-partisan Center for Immigration Studies said the costs would increase dramatically if illegal immigrants became legal because they would be able to access government programs, but they would still be making very modest tax payments.

According to the study, the primary reason illegal immigrants create a federal deficit is that low education levels lead to low incomes and low tax payments.

In 2002, all households with U.S. citizens and legal immigrants, paid an average of $15,000 in federal taxes. Illegal immigrant households paid $4,200.

It's estimated that there are nearly 10 million illegal immigrants in the country, with 220,000 in Colorado.

The center said their numbers are only estimates because no one knows exactly how many undocumented workers are in the country. They said the figures could be off by as much as 10 percent.