Center for Immigration Studies on a chain link fence

Molly Butler / Media Matters

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Right-wing media are using wildly speculative data from an anti-immigrant group to fearmonger about migrants costing taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars

Republican members of the House Committee on Homeland Security published a report using wildly speculative numbers from the Center for Immigration Studies, a white nationalist-linked anti-immigration think tank, to claim that migrant care and housing programs across the country could be costing taxpayers as much as $451 billion. Though the number has not been verified by the Department of Homeland Security — and immigration advocates have panned the report’s estimates — right-wing media have been using it to fearmonger about hundreds of billions of tax dollars being taken from U.S. citizens to pay for migrants.

  • A white nationalist-linked group is behind the House GOP’s claim that migrant care and housing could cost taxpayers up to $451 billion

    • The Center for Immigration Studies belongs to a network of anti-immigrant groups associated with the late white nationalist and eugenicist John Tanton. The Southern Poverty Law Center has designated CIS as a “hate group” for its links to white nationalism and rampant xenophobia. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 11/30/08, accessed 12/4/23]  
    • In a May report, CIS claimed that “total costs to cities and towns for caring for migrants” ranged anywhere between $34-451 billion per year. The higher figure is derived from taking the amount of money New York City spends on migrants and applying that rate to the rest of the country. [Center for Immigration Studies, 5/4/23]
    • On November 13, the Republican-led House Committee on Homeland Security released a report on “historic dollar costs of DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas’ open-border policy” that reproduced financial estimates from CIS. The CIS article admits that the range of $34-451 billion is speculative and based on the amount of money New York City spends on migrants. But the House report itself does not include this context, writing simply that “the annual cost just to care for and house the known gotaways and illegal aliens who have been released into the country under Mayorkas’ leadership could cost as much as an astounding $451 billion.” [House Committee on Homeland Security, 11/13/23; Center for Immigration Studies, 5/4/23]
    • American Immigration Council policy director Aaron Reichlin-Melnick pointed out the absurdity of this claim, posting that it would be “7x the entire annual budget” of DHS. Daniel Di Martino, a fellow at conservative think tank the Manhattan Institute, also said the claim “is patently false” and wrote that “this $451 billion figure is made up and equivalent to total federal Medicaid spending.” [Twitter/X, 11/29/2311/28/23]
  • Right-wing media figures are using the House GOP report to attack immigration and uncritically push the $451 billion number without context

    • Fox News host Brian Kilmeade claimed that it “costs us as a country $451 billion to take in illegal immigrants because we can't get our act together at the border.” Kilmeade expressed indignation at this number, telling viewers, “$451 billion dollars — is that unbelievable how much it’s costing us?” [Fox News, America Reports, 11/13/23]
    • Fox Business anchor Dagen McDowell complained that “taxpayers are picking up the tab — the migrant crisis is now costing the country $451 billion per year.” [Fox Business, The Big Money Show, 11/28/23]
    • Newsmax host Eric Bolling claimed that “U.S. taxpayers are on the hook for as much as $451 billion per year in household and care for illegal immigrants.” [Newsmax, Eric Bolling The Balance, 11/28/23]
    • Newsmax host Shaun Kraisman referenced the House report saying that migrant care “could cost as much as an astounding $451 billion,” which is all “taxpayer money.” Co-host Emma Rechenberg followed up claiming that it is a “huge price tag” that “comes at a cost.” [Newsmax, National Report, 11/28/23]
    • Turning Point USA co-founder Charlie Kirk posted on X (formerly Twitter), “According to the US House Committee on Homeland Security, Joe Biden's Open Border costs American taxpayers $451 BILLION to house and care for illegals and ‘asylum’ seekers who game our immigration system.” Kirk alleged that this was causing “$2 trillion annual deficits” and claimed the U.S. “simply cannot afford the Biden's illegal invasion.” [Twitter/X, 11/28/23]
    • TheBlaze reposted a Fox Business segment on the House report and wrote, “Fox reports that subsidizing illegal immigration is costing American taxpayers $451 billion per year.” [Twitter/X, 11/28/23]
    • Real Clear Investigation’s Paul Sperry claimed that the Biden “open border policy” is costing taxpayers “A Whopping $451 Billion A Year To Feed, Shelter And Medically Care For The Millions Of Migrants Now Living Illegally Inside America.” [Twitter/X, 11/16/23]
    • Right-wing X account “End Wokeness” complained that instead of caring for homeless veterans, the Biden administration “is using $451 BILLION of our tax-dollars to house and care for illegal aliens who invaded our country.” The account also included the $451 billion claim in its list of things the government was subsidizing while saying that “we can’t afford a wall on our border.” [Twitter/X, 11/28/23, 11/29/23]
    • National Review published an article titled “Border Crisis Costs American Taxpayers $451 Billion Annually, House GOP Report Claims.” The piece claimed that the House report “found that nearly half a trillion dollars is being lost in the healthcare, law enforcement, education, housing, and other sectors due to an influx of illegal immigration in the past two years.” [National Review, 11/13/23]
    • The New York Post framed its coverage of the House report by claiming that the “migrant crisis has US taxpayers on the hook for up to $451B.” [New York Post, 11/13/23]
    • Far-right commentator Chuck Callesto shared a Fox Business clip discussing the report and claimed that the “Price Tag to House and care for ILLEGAL MIGRANTS” is “equivalent to 1.25 BILLION per day.” [Twitter/X, 12/4/23]