By Diana Hull, Ph.D.
April 7, 2008
Recently Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said it would be a “big mistake” to blame illegal immigration for California’s budget crisis. Yet, the connection between the budget shortfall and the cost of illegal immigration cannot be so easily dismissed. California’s budget shortage equals the cost of illegal immigration to the state.
When the first reports of California’s fiscal emergency started coming out in December ’07 and January ’08, the budget shortfall was estimated at a whopping $10 to $14 billion. It’s since been reported to be as high as $16 billion.
According to a study by the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), 60 percent of all illegal immigrants are in six states, with California having the largest estimated number at 3,470,000.
The total cost impact to these states is estimated at $27 billion annually for K-12 education, health care and criminal incarceration. This means California’s burden of accommodating illegal aliens is 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 be shrinking soon with the Governor’s recommendation to release 22,000 low-risk inmates who have less than 20 months remaining on their sentences in what would be the largest early release of lawbreakers in U.S. history. 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 aliens.
The Governor went on to say, “I can guarantee you, I have been now four years in office in Sacramento, I don’t think that illegal immigration has created the mess that we are in.”
Perhaps then the Governor has been floating down the river of denial for the last four years because not only is he ignoring 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.”
In 2007, Romero updated his earlier work and estimated that illegal aliens in California now receive somewhere between $9.6 and $38.2 billion more in state services than they pay in state taxes.
No matter whether you look at FAIR’s or Romero’s work, or anecdotal evidence, there’s clearly a financial burden to bear for California and its citizens with continued unchecked illegal immigration.