NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

THE COST OF CROSSING THE BORDER ILLEGALLY

March 3, 2005

The federal government is responsible for financing and enforcing immigration law and securing our borders, not the states. Moreover, the federal government's refusal to address illegal immigration is costing states like California and Arizona several billion dollars a year for welfare, education and law enforcement, says Investor's Business Daily (IBD).

While many of these costs are difficult to quantify, one area -- the jailing of illegal aliens -- is well documented. States do get some of their costs reimbursed under a program called the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP), but only up to a preset level of SCAAP funding. For example:

  • In California, state and local governments spend about $750 million a year to house criminal illegal aliens; last year they received less than $112 million under SCAAP.
  • In Arizona, about $118 million a year is spent housing criminal illegal aliens; in 2004, Arizona received $9 million in reimbursements under SCAAP.
  • Previously, SCAAP was funded at over $500 million annually until 2003, when Congress cut it by more than half.

Currently, SCAAP is on the list of 99 other programs marked for elimination in the new Bush budget. Both republican and democratic politicians want to save SCAAP and raise its funding. IBD says the point here is not so much to help state and local government as it is to hold the federal government accountable. If Washington were doing its job, it would not have to pay anything.

Source: Editorial, "What's Fair to Ask of Washington," Investor's Business Daily, March 1, 2005.

 

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