Fox News continued its campaign against undocumented immigrants getting an affordable college education, railing against a lawsuit in Georgia that asks the state's universities to grant in-state tuition to immigrants who are considered lawfully present under the deferred action program. To make its case, Fox cited the fallacy that their parents don't pay taxes, and argued that this was an issue "of fairness."
It's indisputable fact however that at least three-quarters of undocumented immigrants pay federal taxes and an even larger number pay state and local taxes. Moreover, reports show that the notion that undocumented students are somehow cheating Americans out of a college education is untrue.
As the Associated Press reported on December 5, a group of undocumented students in Georgia filed a lawsuit against the state's university system stating that they should be granted in-state tuition as they are now lawfully present under the Obama administration's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. According to the Department of Homeland Security:
An individual who has received deferred action is authorized by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to be present in the United States, and is therefore considered by DHS to be lawfully present during the period deferred action is in effect.
Discussing the lawsuit on Fox News' Hannity, host Sean Hannity dismissed Five co-host Bob Beckel's argument that undocumented immigrants have a right to an affordable college education, replying: "So laws don't matter in Obama-Beckel's world." Five co-host Andrea Tantaros added that she's "very sensitive to the immigrant community" because her father was an immigrant and that "you do feel sorry for the children that were brought here." She went on to say: "However, their parents, Sean, have not been paying taxes. They have not been on the books. Their parents broke the law. It's a crime." She concluded: "It's an issue of fairness."
In fact, the federal government has estimated that about three-quarters of undocumented immigrants pay billions of dollars in federal payroll taxes each year. In a 2010 study, the Brookings Institution found that the "consensus of the economics literature is that the taxes paid by immigrants and their descendants exceed the benefits they receive--that on balance they are a net positive for the federal budget."
More importantly, undocumented immigrants pay local and state taxes. The Institute on Taxation and Economic Analysis found that in 2010, undocumented immigrants paid nearly $11 billion in sales, property, and income taxes. Indeed, undocumented immigrants in Georgia paid almost $360 million in taxes, the eighth-highest amount in the United States -- more than many top U.S. businesses:
Contrary to Tantaros' claim, undocumented immigrants are subsidizing the in-state tuition rates of Georgia residents. But ironically, their undocumented children who have grown up in the state's public schools, cannot take part -- which is something that even Gov. Chris Christie, a Fox News darling, believes should be remedied.
Accordingly, the notion that by granting in-state tuition, undocumented immigrants have an unfair advantage over American students is wholly exaggerated. From Politico:
Fifteen states have passed laws allowing undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition at public colleges -- a huge incentive for lower-income kids looking for a financial break.
But while opponents have screamed about giving taxpayer subsidies to illegal immigrants, the actual programs themselves have fallen well short -- in some states only a couple dozen students have signed up, and at most a couple hundred have taken advantage of the laws. At the University of Connecticut -- a school of nearly 18,000 -- only 33 undocumented students use the law.
The trivial numbers for these programs counter critics' arguments that tons of immigrant students are cheating legal residents out of seats and states out of revenue.
"Some states wonder whether there will be an effect on the other students," said Tanya Broder, a senior attorney with the National Immigration Law Center. "And the state isn't really cheated out of revenue because the number of students affected is small. In each state, it's just a few dozen or a few hundred undocumented immigrant students."
Why are the numbers so small? Broder said socioeconomic and financial barriers still make it hard for undocumented students to attend college. Some of the states that allow undocumented students to pay in-state tuition still bar the same students from qualifying for financial aid.