The illegal migrant population grew more in Massachusetts than any other state from 2007 to 2017 — a 60,000 spike that costs Massachusetts taxpayers and risks public safety, legal immigration advocates say.

“This is very concerning,” said Jessica Vaughan of the Center for Immigration Studies, after a Pew Research Center report detailing the increase was released Wednesday. “Besides the cost to taxpayers, there are public safety implications when you fail to control illegal immigration. And the continuing high levels of illegal immigrants undermine the integrity of our legal immigration system.”

Illegal immigrants annually cost Massachusetts taxpayers an estimated $2 billion for welfare, education and other costs, she said — a price that will only rise as the illegal immigrant population goes up, she said.

“They’re a net fiscal drain because they don’t pay enough in taxes to cover the cost of the social services they use,” Vaughan said. “So the more illegal immigrants, the higher costs to taxpayers. It’s just common sense.”

But an advocate for illegal immigrants argued that Massachusetts is a welcoming state that has not been negatively impacted by the increase.

Illegal immigrants are making “very, very substantial contributions to our society and to our economy,” said Marion Davis, director of communications for Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition. “The increase has not made a dent in public safety or anything like that. And they all contribute a lot more to taxes than any value they get out of it.”

The Bay State’s illegal immigrant population increased to 275,000 in 2017, according to the Pew Research Center’s report based on government data. The 60,000 growth in Massachusetts since 2007 led the nation.

The other states with rising illegal immigrant populations were Maryland, up 45,000; Louisiana, up 15,000; and North and South Dakota, each up 5,000.

States that saw declines included five of the six states with the largest illegal immigrant populations: California, down 775,000; New York, down 375,000; Florida, down 210,000; Illinois, down 120,000; and New Jersey, down 110,000. A sharp decrease in Mexican migration was the major factor driving down the overall population of illegal immigrants in the U.S.

That Massachusetts led the nation is “fascinating,” Vaughan said.

“I never would have predicted that,” she said. “Texas or Florida I would have thought, but I guess Massachusetts makes sense because there is now less illegal migration from Mexico and Massachusetts has never had as much illegal migration from Mexico to begin with.”

The illegal immigrant population in Massachusetts mostly includes people from Central America, Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Haiti and China.

“Because there are already a lot of illegal immigrants from Central America in Massachusetts, it has become a magnet for people arriving here,” Vaughan said. “It also doesn’t hurt that Massachusetts has sanctuary policies, but that’s not the biggest reason they’re here because other states also have sanctuary policies.”


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