Illegal Immigrants Drain State Coffers

Published on June 5th, 2008

By Diana Hull, Ph.D.
The Press-Enterprise
April 7, 2008

Gov. Schwarzenegger has said it would be a “big mistake” to blame illegal immigration for California’s budget crisis. 

But the connection between the budget shortfall — now reported to be as high as $20 billion — and the cost of illegal immigration cannot be so easily dismissed.

According to a study by the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), 60 percent of all illegal immigrants are in six states, California has the largest estimated number at 3.5 million.

The financial impact on the six states is estimated at $27 billion annually for K-12 education, health care and criminal incarceration. California’s burden of accommodating illegal immigrantsis more than $11 billion annually, or an average of $3,200 per person, with the costs for those in the prison system well above this average number.

Of course the numbers in prison may shrink with the governor’s recommendation to discharge 22,000 low-risk inmates. This is on the table as a budget reduction proposal to save $400 million. It is not known how many in this proposed early release are illegal immigrants.

Not only has the governor taken no notice of current information that shows the high costs to taxpayers of illegal immigration, he’s also ignoring data that came out of the administration of his mentor, former Governor Pete Wilson.

In Wilson’s administration, a study prepared by Philip J. Romero for the Governor’s office found that illegal immigrants and their U.S.-born children received about $3.6 billion more in state services than they paid in taxes. The 1994 study was followed up in 1997 with the Jordan Commission’s study of California conducted by the National Research Council. In looking at California’s budget, the study found that there was “a net fiscal transfer to the average immigrant-headed household of $3,463” and that the “net fiscal burden on native households in California is families from Latin America.”

Working as a consultant for Californians for Population Stabilization in 2007, Romero updated his earlier work and estimated that illegal immigrants in the state now receive somewhere between $9.6 and $38.2 billion more in state services than they pay in state taxes.

Clearly, unchecked illegal immigration places a financial burden on Californiams.

Diana Hull is president of Californians for Population Stabilization, a nonprofit organization based in Santa Barbara.

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