Despite crackdown, Florida economists predict growth of undocumented immigrants using state services

by | Jul 18, 2023

  • Florida’s aggressive efforts to curb illegal immigration are being outpaced by a projected rise in the usage of social services by immigrants lacking permanent legal status.
  • The State Legislature’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research predicts a trend of increasing caseloads and expenditures on undocumented immigrants for the next four years.
  • Despite a 520 percent increase last year, and a projected 40 percent increase this year, Florida’s economy is expected to thrive, with low unemployment rates and a budget surplus.

Even in the face of Florida’s aggressive efforts to curb illegal immigration, the State Legislature’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research (EDR) is nevertheless predicting a rising trend in the usage of Florida’s social services by immigrants lacking permanent legal status. The projected trend, which is expected to continue for the next four years, appears to be outpacing attempts by GOP lawmakers and Governor Ron DeSantis to limit unlawful immigration.

DeSantis signed Senate Bill 1718 into law this year that included a number of provisions aimed at curbing some of the lucrative perks provided to undocumented immigrants, including special driver licenses and other forms of ID. At the same time, the bill requires hospitals to collect immigration status information from patients, while also blocking economic development funds from any organization that knowingly hires undocumented workers.  The law also expanded the use of E-Verify for certain employers who must validate the citizenship status of all employees.

But despite those aggressive tactics, the policy wonks who provide economic and demographic data to state lawmakers concluded it won’t be enough to stem the tide – even with the added benefit of an expected flourishing economy. A sister organization, the Social Services Estimating Conference, echoed the EDR’s forecast, predicting higher overall caseloads and expenditures on undocumented immigrants for the next four years before the situation is expected to stabilize in fiscal 2027-28. From the report:

The caseload for the Unemployed Parent program was increased significantly in the near term to account for the sharp rise in non-citizen applicant activity. While the prior conference took account of increasing activity, application rates for non-citizens since then have risen at a much higher rate than expected.

The newest projections show an expected caseload increase of about 42 percent – and that’s on top of last year’s explosion of over 520 percent last year.

Despite the rising challenges that will eat into the state budget, Florida’s economy continues to outperform national averages. The state’s unemployment rate is 2.6% as of May 2023, notably lower than the national average of 3.5%. Florida also enjoys a current surplus of around $20 billion in a $1 trillion economy, leading to one of the lowest debt per capita rates in the U.S.


  1. Jacqueline R.

    What specific State programs are undocumented workers using that are biting into the Florida economy? It would be helpful if you specified that because undocumented workers aren’t allowed any government assistance at all.

    • MHDuuuval

      Yes, please, more gruel from BB. There was a time when migrants from Commie countries were welcomed with open arms — places such as Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela. Everyone else was **** out of luck.

  2. Deborah Coffey

    What state social services are undocumented immigrants getting in Florida? This sounds like a lot of bull from “Florida economists.”

  3. Anonymous

    nearly 800,000 illegal immigrants in Florida in 2019. Table 1 shows the cost of associated government services. For example, among non-disabled children (both U.S.- and foreign-born) living in households headed by an illegal immigrant, about 129,000 were on Medicaid. With a per-person cost of $957, this Medicaid coverage cost the state a total of $123 million. Florida also spent a combined $52 million on illegal immigrants who gave birth either on Medicaid or (much more commonly) without insurance, which usually generates Medicaid spending.

    Table 1. Cost of Major Health and Education Programs
    Used by Illegal Immigrants in Florida in 2019
    Count Per-Person Cost Total Cost
    (in millions)
    Births to Illegal Immigrant Mothers
    Births on Medicaid 490 $6,231 $3.05
    Births Uninsured 9,172 $5,359 $49.15

    Children* on Medicaid
    No Disability 129,208 $957 $123.62
    With Disability 5,060 $4,762 $24.10

    Public School Children* 189,143 $8,594 $1,625.44
    Source: Author’s analysis of 2019 American Community Survey and administrative data
    (see text for details).
    * Includes all children (both U.S.-born and foreign-born) in households headed by an
    illegal immigrant.
    By far the largest cost, however, was $1.6 billion to educate the U.S.- and foreign-born children of illegal immigrants. The Supreme Court case of Plyler v. Doe (1982) established that states must provide free public schooling to illegal immigrants — even though the federal government is responsible for controlling illegal immigration and offers no reimbursement to states when it fails to do so.

  4. Anonymous

    Federal government requires that All states provide education and health care to children in household headed by illegal immigrant. The cost to the states is not subsidized by the federal government although they are in charge of immigration, and is unable to control it,

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