NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


March 8, 2006

The United States' inability to slow illegal immigration from Mexico is fueling a financial crisis in the 24 counties along the 1,951-mile Southwest border, according to a new study by the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP). Researcher says the counties are struggling to fund law enforcement, health programs and other necessities because they are spending millions of dollars a year to care for illegal immigrants.

Illegal immigrants continue to flow across the border even with increased security since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks:

  • There now are about 10,000 federal agents there, up from 7,000, which has boosted arrests dramatically.
  • In 2004, there were 1.14 million arrests along the border that stretches from California to Texas, the Department of Homeland Security says; that was up 26 percent from the year before.

The UTEP study found that border counties have some of the nation's highest rates for uninsured patients, and that treating illegal immigrants accounts for nearly one-quarter of the uncompensated costs at the counties' hospitals.

  • In Pima County, Ariz., hospitals reported having to absorb $76 million in treatment costs in 2000, about one-third of it from treating illegal immigrants.
  • In Cochise County, Ariz., about 25 percent of the budget paid for health care to uninsured people -- most of them illegal immigrants -- who went to the county hospital's emergency room.

Cochise also reported spending tens of thousands of dollars each year to collect trash left at remote campsites by illegal immigrants; County Board of Supervisors Chairman Pat Call estimates that 13 percent of the solid waste generated in Cochise comes from such sites.

Source: Donna Leinwand, "Loose border saps county coffers," USA Today, March 8, 2006.

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