Report: State has few options to recoup cost of handling illegal immigrants
December 29, 2006
Aspen, CO Colorado
DENVER ” Colorado has few options for getting more federal funds to recover its costs for handling illegal immigrants, including nearly $36 million for incarceration alone, the state attorney general said in a report released Friday.
“The best prospect for Colorado to obtain increased federal funding of the costs of illegal immigration is Congressional action to fully fund programs to offset the high costs of illegal immigration imposed on state and local governments,” Attorney General John Suthers wrote.
A new state law directed Suthers to prepare the report and pursue any money owed by the federal government to reimburse state costs for providing health care, education and other services for illegal immigrants. Suthers’ report said it appears Colorado has recovered about all that it can.
The Colorado Department of Corrections estimated it spent about $35.7 million in 2005 to hold illegal immigrants. It received $2.36 million in federal funds, reimbursing about one-third of the cost of prison employees’ salaries needed to handle those inmates, the same percentage that other states received, the report said.
In fiscal 2006, Colorado received $3.43 million in federal funds to help cover costs of emergency medical care for illegal immigrants, but Congress has not funded a program to reimburse certain ambulance or emergency care outside of Medicaid, Suthers said in the report.
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He said there was no way to estimate how many illegal immigrants are in public schools, and there is no federal program to reimburse state costs for educating them.
The Federation for American Immigration Reform, which aims to stop illegal immigration, estimated Colorado had 263,000 illegal immigrants last year. Suthers did not make his own estimate.
In his report, Suthers said federal legislation and litigation are options for reducing immigration costs and seeking reimbursement but that six other states that tried to sue the federal government had their cases dismissed.
Voters in November approved a measure asking Suthers to pursue a federal lawsuit demanding that the federal government enforce its own immigration laws.
In June, the liberal think tank Bell Policy Center released a study that said illegal immigrants pay enough state and local taxes in Colorado to cover 70 to 86 percent of the estimated $225 million in services the state is required to provide them.
Defend Colorado Now, which unsuccessfully tried to place a measure on the ballot asking voters to prohibit state and local governments from providing certain services to illegal immigrants, quickly dismissed the study as flawed and estimated that the state spends more than $1 billion a year on Medicaid, education and incarceration for illegal immigrants.