- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 3, 2004

Illegal immigration now costs Arizona taxpayers about $1.3 billion annually, a nine-fold increase in the past decade, according to a new report by the Federation of Immigration Reform.

The analysis by FAIR, a group that opposes illegal immigration and supports moderation in legal immigration, says the biggest increases have been in expenses for educating, providing health care and jailing illegal aliens that have converged on Arizona.

Jack Martin, author of the new FAIR report, said the “real objective” of the study is to inform Arizona voters of efforts to place on the November ballot a referendum to restrict the benefits available to illegal immigrants, including health care services and kindergarten through 12th-grade education. Those benefits are now mandated by the federal government.

The FAIR report, “The Cost of Illegal Immigration to Arizonans,” says the average Arizona household headed by a U.S. native bears more than $700 a year in additional costs because of mass illegal immigration to the state. Arizona is second to California in terms of the size of its illegal population, and most of the aliens come there from Mexico.

“Unless the federal government takes steps to clamp down on the massive influx of new illegal aliens, and state officials begin cooperating with immigration-enforcement authorities, illegal immigration will do to Arizona what it has already done to California’s state budget,” which is to bankrupt it, Mr. Martin said.

Jeanine L’Ecuyer, press secretary for Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, a Democrat, said she could not provide a comprehensive list of the costs that state has borne as a result of illegal immigration so she could not attest to the accuracy of FAIR’s $1.3 billion figure.

“We are not aligned in any way with that group … but we do know that the lack of responsiveness by the federal government to deal with this problem has placed terrible pressures on our education, health care and prison systems,” she said yesterday in a telephone interview.

Officials of the National Immigration Forum, a nonprofit, pro-immigration national advocacy group, accuse FAIR of “attacking illegal immigration in order to restrict legal immigration.” They say FAIR’s new report is “clearly linked” to its efforts to get the anti-immigration referendum on the Arizona ballot this fall.

“There is a broken [immigration] system that needs to be fixed. The question is how do you fix the immigration system? [FAIR leaders] have yet to provide an answer that’s workable,” said Angela Kelley, a NIF spokeswoman.

Federal immigration officials estimate Arizona’s illegal population is currently at 425,000, up from 283,000 four years ago.

In 2000, the number of illegal aliens in California was estimated at 2.2 million. Published reports have said the influx of such aliens to California costs that state more than $4 billion a year and that medical costs account for a quarter of that total.

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