News From the Border

Providing the news from a different front but from a war that we must win as well! I recognize the poverty and desperate conditions that many Latinos live in. We, as the USA, have a responsibility to do as much as we can to reach out to aid and assist spiritually with the Gospel and naturally with training, technology and resources. But poverty gives no one the right to break the laws of another sovereign nation.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Fed neglect hurts border counties

Opinion by Sharon Bronson

It's no secret that the federal government's efforts to secure our border with Mexico have been a catastrophic failure. What's little known, however, is the enormous cost to residents of border counties that has resulted from these ineffective policies.

A research report commissioned by the U.S.-Mexico Border Counties Coalition and performed by the University of Arizona was released this month. It quantifies these costs to the 24 counties along the U.S.-Mexico border in the area of criminal justice and they are staggering.

Collectively, all border counties in the United States spent $1.23 billion of their local budgets during the past eight years to process undocumented immigrants who were arrested for committing crimes. In Pima County this eight-year total was more than $95 million, with almost $15 million spent in 2006 alone. And if these totals reflected the costs related to health care and emergency services for undocumented immigrants, that number could double.

These extra costs are being borne by law enforcement, prosecutors, public defenders, courts and the jail. The U.S. government has acknowledged the fiscal burdens placed on county government as a result of federal policies related to immigration and security by implementing programs like the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program and the Southwest Border Prosecution Initiative. However, less than 3 percent of these costs were reimbursed by the federal government though, clearly, they have allowed this situation to escalate to critical proportions.

The result is that in addition to the overall degradation of the quality of life for county residents as a result of this exported violence and crime, county taxpayers are shouldering a disproportionate burden to pay for these services. We are paying more simply because we are geographically first in line to the problem.

In fact, the dramatically escalating violence associated with illegal immigration, drugs and other contraband along Pima County's border with Mexico has led Sheriff Clarence Dupnik to establish a Border Crimes Unit at an initial cost of $1.8 million.

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