Immigrant Costs Soar For Border Counties

Diana Marrero, Arizona Republic (Phoenix), March 5, 2008

WASHINGTON—Illegal immigration is costing Arizona border counties millions a year for law enforcement and criminal prosecutions, diverting money from parks, libraries and other law-enforcement efforts, according to a study to be released today.

The costs to the four border counties in Arizona increased 39 percent, from $19.2 million in fiscal 1999 to $26.6 million in fiscal 2006, researchers at the University of Arizona and San Diego State University found.

For the nation’s 24 border counties in Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas, the costs related to illegal immigration in fiscal 2006 were $192 million, more than double the costs in 1999.

The study was commissioned by the U.S./Mexico Border Counties Coalition, a non-profit group of border-county officials who want the federal government to reimburse their county jails and prosecutors offices for legal costs.

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Researchers estimate the costs of illegal immigration on county law enforcement borderwide at $1.2 billion in the past eight fiscal years.

Researchers examined county budgets, court records and crime statistics and interviewed hundreds of county officials for the report. The report did not look at the impact of illegal immigrants on cities, states or Indian tribes.

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The costs of illegal immigration are placing “undue burdens” on people who live in border counties, the report says. Urban counties bore the highest costs, with San Diego County in California spending the most at $77.1 million, followed by El Paso and Hidalgo counties in Texas and Pima and Yuma counties in Arizona.

Residents of three Texas counties—Hudspeth, Terrell and Zapata—carried the costliest per capita burden, with each resident paying about $378, $126 and $112, respectively, last year.

The costs came at the expense of other county services such as libraries, jails, courtrooms and parks, according to the report.

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