Poor Border Counties Pay Steep Price for Illegal Immigration

Josiah Ryan | Staff Writer | Friday, March 7, 2008

Poor Border Counties Pay Steep Price for Illegal Immigration

(CNSNews.com) - Poor rural communities along the border are paying a steep price for illegal immigration, according to a study released Wednesday done on behalf of the United States/Mexico Border Counties Coalition by the University of Arizona and San Diego State University.

Some of this cost is driven by the need for increased law enforcement.

Manny Ruiz, vice president of the coalition, is chairman of the board of supervisors in Santa Cruz County, Ariz., which includes 50 miles of the Mexican border. Sheriffs in his county have caught undocumented immigrants carrying AK-47 rifles and have discovered weapons caches hidden in remote hills near the border, Ruiz told Cybercast New Service.

"There are gangs out there trying to outrun local law enforcement and the Border Patrol," he said. "It's becoming expensive, and we are very concerned."

Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), who helped secure Justice Department funding for the study, said it demonstrates that communities in states like his are being overwhelmed by the cost of illegal immigration.

"This updated study effectively illustrates that, until our borders are secure and our immigration laws are adequately enforced, many states and localities, particularly in border states like Arizona, will continue to incur overwhelming costs to process those illegal immigrants who commit crimes or who, sadly, die trying to come to the United States," Kyl said.

Between 1999 and 2006, the 24 U.S. counties bordering Mexico spent $1.23 billion on illegal immigrants in their local criminal justice systems, according to the report.

Ruiz said his county can ill afford to deal with the illegal immigrant crime problem considering that the average per capita income in the county is $13,278.

Between 10 percent and 25 percent of the inmates in the local jail are illegal aliens, and $2.2 million of the $22 million in annual local general-fund taxes are spent dealing with criminal aliens, Ruiz said.

Laura Ilardo, Phoenix coordinator for No More Deaths, a group that assists immigrants once they have already crossed onto U.S. soil, told Cybercast News Service most illegal alien crime is committed by a minority of illegal immigrants.

"I challenge the idea that there is violence among undocumented people," she said. "It's very specific to the drug smugglers or human smugglers. They are the problem."

Ilardo said her group does not see illegal immigrants bringing weapons across the border.

"The immigrants themselves never invoke violence. They never carry weapons," she said. "Our group has been walking the border for four or five years, and we have never encountered a single weapon, not even once."

Dan Griswold, director of the Center for Trade Policy Studies at the Cato Institute, told Cybercast News Service that the cost for illegal immigration is a heavy and unnecessary burden on local communities.

"It is a lot of money for these local communities," he said. "County officials should be out there catching local criminals. Instead they are chasing down people who are coming to be construction workers and dishwashers and maids."

Griswold likens our current immigration laws to the historical outlawing of alcoholic beverages in the United States.

"Like prohibition in the 1930s, current border laws have spawned an underworld of crime, smuggling and document crime," he said. "That's where the violence comes in. If we had reform, we would see a drastic reduction in smuggling."

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