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Costs Of State’s Illegal Immigrant Population

Your browser does not support this object. View the original here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u0h-4iO7wwg

Video published July 23, 2010 | Download MP4 | View transcript

Above: What are the true costs of illegal immigration in California? KPBS Reporter Joanne Faryon brings us a report on the financial implications of the state's large illegal immigrant population.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

AS THE COUNTRY DEBATES ARIZONA'S ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION LAW, OUR DAK CAN YOU MEN TEAR SERIES WILL TAKE A CLOSER LOOK AT THE SITUATION IN SAN DIEGO COUNTY. NEXT MONDAY NIGHT, YOU WILL MEET MIGRANT WORKERS WHO TAKE BIG RISKS TO WORK IN THE UNITED STATES. BUT TONIGHT WE WILL LOOK AT THE NUMBERS. WITH 3 MILLION ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS LIVING IN CALIFORNIA, KPBS TAKES A CLOSER LOOK AT THE FINANCIAL IMPLICATIONS OF SUCH A LARGE UNDOCUMENTED POPULATION.

Special Feature Crossing The Line: Border Stories

Envision San Diego takes a closer look at illegal immigration, exploring why migrants take big risks to work in the U.S., what happens to the children of deported parents, and how this region benefits from -- and pays a price for -- its unauthorized migrant labor pool.

YOU CAN LOOK ON THE HILLSIDE AND SEE THE TRACKS. THEY LOOK LIKE WATER TRACKS. THEY ARE HUMAN TRACKS COMING DOWN. MARTHA POINTS TO THE TRACKS THAT TRAVERSE THE HILLSIDE. THIS IS THE VIEW FROM HER HORSE RANCH IN SAN DIEGO COUNTY. ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THIS HILL IS MEXICO. TARKINGTON HAS SEEN HER SIDE OF MIGRANTS TRICKLE PAST THE HILLS.

THE ONES THAT COME IN AND CONTRIBUTE AND PARTICIPATE IN THE UNITED STATES, WE WANT THEM. BUT THE OTHER SIDE IS WE DON'T WANT TO SUPPORT THEM.

JUST WHETHER ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS COST MORE THAN THEY CONTRIBUTE IS A COMPLICATED QUESTION.

IMMIGRATION, MOST WILL TELL YOU IT HAS SHORT TERM COSTS BUT LONG-TERM BENEFITS.

Reporter: JOHN IS A SOCIOLOGY PROFESSOR AND DIRECTOR OF THE CENTER FOR COMPARATIVE IMMIGRATION STUDIES.

THE FISCAL IMPACT IS POSITIVE FOR FEDERAL GOVERNMENT AND NEGATIVE FOR LOCALITIES AND STATES.

Reporter: A FEW YEARS AGO THE BUDGET OFFICE LOOKED AT THE STUDIES OF THE FINANCIAL IMPACT OF ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS TO STATE AND LOCAL BUG GETS. THE REPORT LOOKED AT HEALTH CARE, LAW ENFORCEMENT AND EDUCATION.

I AM THE PRESIDENT OF THE SAN DIEGO UNIFIED SCHOOL BOARD.

Reporter: BY LAW, ALL CHILDREN IN THE U.S. HAVE ACCESS TO PUBLIC SCHOOLS DESPITE IMMIGRATION STATUS.

OUR JOB IS TO EDUCATE KIDS THAT COME IN THE SCHOOLS. IT'S NOT OUR JOB TO DISCERN THEIR IMMIGRATION STATUS. THAT IS THE JOB OF THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT.

Reporter: TWO MILLION SCHOOL- AGE CHILDREN IN THE U.S. ARE ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS. STUDIES ESTIMATE IT COSTS BETWEEN 20 TO 40% MORE TO TEACH KIDS NOT FLUENT IN ENGLISH. BUT RICHARD SAYS CONTRIBUTIONS MADE BY IMMIGRANTS FAR OUT WAY THE COSTS.

WE REALIZE THAT EVERY KID THAT WE EDUCATE WILL BE A CONTRIBUTOR TO OUR COMMUNITY AND OUR COUNTRY. WE ALL BENEFIT. OUR LIVES ARE ALL MADE BETTER WHEN WE EDUCATE CHILDREN. NONE OF OUR LIVES WILL GET BETTER BY KEEPING KIDS OUT OF SCHOOL.

Reporter: STUDIES FOUND IMMIGRANTS ARE LESS LIKELY TO HAVE HEALTH INSURANCE AND MORE LIKELY TO RELY ON EMERGENCY ROOMS FOR MEDICAL CARE. THE LAW SAYS EMERGENCY ROOMS MUST TREAT PEOPLE REGARDLESS OF THEIR ABILITY TO PAY OR IMMIGRATION STATUS. SAN DIEGO COUNTY GOVERNMENT DOES NOT OPERATE A COUNTY HOSPITAL. THEREFORE, DOES NOT INCUR EMERGENCY ROOM COSTS. HOWEVER, PRIVATELY RUN EMERGENCY ROOMS DO PAY SOME OF THE EXPENSES. SCRIPTS HEALTH OPERATES FOUR NONPROFIT HOSPITALS IN THE COUNTY. IT ESTIMATES ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS ACCOUNTED FOR ABOUT $10 MILLION IN CHARITABLE CARE LAST YEAR. UNDOCUMENTED RESIDENTS ARE ELIGIBLE FOR SOME STATE HILLARY CLINTON PROGRAMS SUCH AS MEDI MEDI-CAL. A STUDY BY THE UNITED STATES- MEXICO BORDER COALITION FOUND THAT SAN DIEGO COUNTY SPENT $50 MILLION IN LAW ENFORCEMENT RELATED TO ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS. TAXES PAID BY ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS OFFSET SOME OF THE COSTS. THE IRS ESTIMATES HALF OF ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS FILE INCOME TAX RETURNS. MANY PAY SALES AND PROPERTY TAXES. THE NET EFFECT, COST VERSUS CONTRIBUTION, IT'S A TRICKY CALCULATION. AT THE FEDERAL LEVEL, IT MAY PAY MORE IN TAXES THAN THEY RECEIVE IN FEDERAL BENEFITS. HOWEVER, THE CONGRESSIONAL BUDGET OFFICE CONCLUDE THAD TAXES PAID AT THE LOCAL AND STATE LEVEL DO NOT OFFSET THE COST OF LOCAL SERVICES, PARTICULARLY IN CALIFORNIA, THE STATE WITH THE LARGEST NUMBER OF ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS. IN THE LONG RUN, CONTRIBUTIONS MADE BY UNDOCUMENTED WORKERS BENEFIT THE OVERALL ECONOMY.

IT WOULD BE DIFFERENT IF WE WERE GETTING WAVES OF UNDOCUMENTED ELDERLY THAT WOULD COME HERE AND I AM POSE IMMEDIATELY ALL SORTS OF COSTS ON THE HEALTH CARE SYSTEM. THAT WOULD BE A DIFFERENT STORY.

Reporter: RICHARD BELIEVES THE DEBATE OVER THE COST OF ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION IS BEING FUELED BY BAD ECONOMIC TIMES AND POLITICIANS OFFERING EASY ANSWERS TO COMPLEX PROBLEMS.

THEY WANT AN EASY ANSWER. THEY WANT TO BE ABLE TO SAY IF WE ONLY TOOK A GROUP OF KIDS AND THEIR FAMILIES AND SOMEHOW ROUNDED THEM UP AND TOOK THEM BACK ACROSS THE BORE DER, THE IDEAS, THAT OUR LIVES WILL GET EASIER.

THAT'S A PERFECT EXAMPLE OF A PIECE OF CLOTHING THAT YOU WILL SEE ON SOME OF THE TRAILS THAT THEY FOLLOW.

ONE OF THE LARGEST AND MOST TANGIBLE COSTS OF ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION IS RIGHT HERE IN FRONT OF MARTHA'S PROPERTY. IT'S THE COST OF KEEPING MIGRANTS FROM JUMPING THE FENCE AND CROSSING OVER THIS HILL. THIS YEAR THE U.S. BORDER PATROL WILL SPEND $3.6 BILLION PATROLLING THE COUNTRY'S BORDER, ALMOST TRIPLE THE AMOUNT SPEND 10 YEARS AGO. ENVISION SAN DIEGO CROSSING THE LINE BORDER STORIES AIRS THIS MONDAY, JULY 26th AT 10:00 P.M. ON KPBS-TV. GO TO OUR WEB SITE FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THE DOCUMENTARY.

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