Tucson Citizen
Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Report: Illegal immigration costs Ariz. taxpayers $1.3B a year

But the author of a UA report on the same subject said the findings are too high and shouldn't be considered credible.


A recently issued report aimed at giving a local group a political boost estimates the cost of illegal immigration is about $700 for each U.S.-born head of household in the state.

In the report, FAIR, the Federation for American Immigration Reform, declared that illegal immigration costs Arizona taxpayers about $1.3 billion a year, according to its own estimates.

However, one local researcher who has quantified some of the costs of illegal immigration disagrees with the numbers.

The timing of the release of the report, available at www.fairus.org, was intended to muster signatures for the Protect Arizona Now initiative "which we support," said Jack Martin, FAIR's special projects editor, who wrote the report.

The initiative effort was started by a Glendale-based group.

Martin said the annual cost to the state from illegal immigration is borne mainly in three areas:

Education: $820 million for grades K-12

Health care: $400 million in uncompensated care

Incarceration: $80 million

Beyond this are "uncounted costs" related to special English instruction, school nutrition programs and benefits paid to American workers displaced by illegal immigrant workers, the report states.

In a telephone interview from Washington, D.C., Martin said the new study draws on two reports, one written 10 years ago by the Urban Institute and the other four years ago by the University of Arizona.

To those findings, Martin said he added new figures based on census data and immigration statistics collected by the federal government.

Martin said he took some of his information for the report from secondary sources; articles published by The Arizona Republic, East Valley Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, New York Times and other newspapers; and information from an Immigration and Naturalization report published in 1992, among other sources.

Martin's final numbers numbers don't seem right to Tanis Salant, the principal investigator for a report on illegal immigrant costs by the University of Arizona.

Salant's report was cited by Martin in his executive summary.

Her study found that Arizona's border counties - Cochise, Santa Cruz, Pima and Yuma - spent $24 million in 1999 on incarceration, court costs and medical emergency care for illegal immigrants who committed crimes.

Spending $80 million for incarceration alone just four years later, doesn't make sense, said Salant, director of UA's Eller College's Institute for Local Government.

The Urban Institute's research, which also was used to develop the FAIR numbers, estimated the cost of educating children of illegal immigrants was $55 million 10 years ago. The state of Arizona estimated $10 million less, Salant said.

It is hard to believe that cost has blossomed to $820 million in a decade, she said. And "I don't think it's legitimate to include U.S.-born children in the costs of educating illegal immigrants, Salant said.

Definitive studies on the issue are tough because data are so hard to come by, she said. Hospitals, for example, don't ask about someone's legal status.

"I wouldn't give any credibility to this report whatsoever," she said. "I have to think they leave off the citations (in the full study posted online) so nobody can do any tough checking on their numbers." The report does include a bibliography.

Martin said the numbers in his report bolster the work of Protect Arizona Now. FAIR is providing money to get enough signatures to put the group's measure on the ballot in November.

FAIR executive director Dan Stein said in a telephone interview from Washington that FAIR has provided $200,000 to pay the cost of gathering signatures in Arizona for the initiative effort.

The main elements of Protect Arizona Now:

Requiring proof of citizenship of those registering to vote.

Requiring proof of eligibility for nonfederally mandated public benefits, which include education.

Protect Arizona Now needs 122,600 signatures by July 1 to get on the Nov. 2 ballot. Protect Arizona Now state Director Kathy McKee told the Arizona Republic recently that she did not know how many signatures had been collected. On Friday, a Maricopa County judge ordered the group's former treasurer to turn over signatures, according to the Republic.

Rick Oltman, FAIR's Western field director, said a private firm hired by his Washington, D.C.-based organization has gathered more than 75,000 signatures, according to the Republic.

Robin Hoover, the Tucson-based director of Humane Borders, acknowledges that border communities and border states do "suffer dramatically because they are required to provide a host of goods and services" to immigrants that are not reimbursed by the federal government.

Arizonans are paying for infrastructure, law enforcement, criminal justice, and health care costs that are the result of immigration from the south, Hoover said.

"And occasionally the federal government will come in here with episodic reimbursements," but they are not enough to offset the costs, he said.

If the federal money was redistributed to local governments most affected, Arizona would get some relief, he said. Arizona received more than $9 million this year from the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program, U.S. Rep. Jim Kolbe, R-Ariz., said in a news release yesterday. Pima County received $747,878; Cochise County, $133,904 and Pinal County, $70,660.


How Arizonans pay for illegal immigration:

Cost of workers in Arizona displaced by illegal workers willing to take jobs at a lower wage: At least $175 million a year

Law enforcement costs to prevent crime by illegal immigrants; judicial costs when crimes are committed by illegal immigrants

Providing Spanish-speaking interpreters in health care, law enforcement and the judicial system

Cost of translation for PTA meetings and school newsletters in Spanish

Tuition subsidies borne by taxpayers for illegal immigrants enrolled in state-funded higher education

Increased insurance rates associated with "illegal immigration related crimes, especially property loss and auto theft"

Source: "The Costs of Illegal Immigration to Arizona," June 2004, Federation for American Immigration Reform, Washington, D.C.


Although Proposition 187, California's 1994 law to keep illegal immigrants from receiving public health care, education and welfare, has been ruled unconstitutional - and a similar California initiative failed to get enough votes to make the November ballot - a group is trying again to get a similar measure on the ballot in March 2005.

The Press-Enterprise newspaper in Riverside, Calif., reported April 28 that a renewed effort similar to Prop. 187 has failed. It sought to prohibit illegal immigrants from getting drivers licenses and other state services.

The group is launching an effort to get Save (Prop.) 187, also known as Save Our State, on the ballot for a March vote, the newspaper reported.