Illegal immigration bankrupting border counties
Posted Wed, Mar 3, 2006 at 10:17 am
The United States' inability to slow illegal immigration from Mexico is fueling a financial crisis in the 24 counties along the 1,951-mile Southwest border, according to a new study. It says the counties are struggling to fund law enforcement, health programs and other necessities because they are spending millions of dollars a year to care for illegal immigrants.Wait, there's more:
Illegal immigrants continue to flow across the border even as increased security since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks — there now are about 10,000 federal agents there, up from 7,000 — has boosted arrests dramatically. In 2004, there were 1.14 million arrests along the border that stretches from California to Texas, the Department of Homeland Security says. That was up 26% from the year before.
The jump in arrests has come to symbolize how localities have been left with much of the bill for border security, according to a study by the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) to be released today by the U.S./Mexico Border Counties Coalition. A funding increase by Congress last year will boost the number of federal detention cells from 18,000 to 20,000. However, that's not nearly enough to handle the waves of immigrants who are being arrested, so such people often end up in local jails.
The federal government reimburses localities and states for services they provide to illegal immigrants, but the payments don't come close to matching the localities' costs, the report says. For example, Department of Justice records show Arizona's four border counties asked the federal government for $23.2 million last year to cover the cost of jailing thousands of illegal immigrants. The counties were reimbursed $731,000.
In California, San Diego County spends $50 million a year to arrest, jail, prosecute and defend illegal immigrants, and is reimbursed about $2 million, says county Supervisor Greg Cox, president of the border counties coalition. The $48 million shortfall cuts into the $600 million a year the county has for discretionary spending, he says. "That's money that would support libraries, parks and public safety."
If the 24 counties along the nation's Southwest border were a 51st state, it would rank first in federal crimes, second in tuberculosis and near the bottom in education, per capita income and access to health care...
The study found the region ranks last in access to health care compared with the rest of the states and 50th in number of residents with insurance. Yet the prevalence of people with tuberculosis is twice that of United States as a whole. Residents also have high rates of AIDS, hepatitis and adult diabetes...