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Clinton Bill Would Reimburse Local Governments for Immigration Costs

May 18, 2006 - Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) news release

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton today introduced an amendment to the immigration bill being considered on the floor of the Senate that would help state and local governments who are bearing costs that should be borne by the federal government. Senator Clinton emphasized in introducing the amendment that immigration is a federal responsibility and for too long the federal government has neglected its duty to states and local communities.

"The Administration's immigration policies have left our state and local governments to unfairly bear the brunt of the costs of immigration. Our schools, hospitals, and other state and local services are strained. Estimates are that states and localities are forced to pay tens of billions of dollars in health and education costs for non-citizens. Reimbursing state and local governments for these expenditures must be part of any smart, comprehensive immigration reform," said Senator Clinton.

Studies have shown that at the state and local level, immigrants use more in services than they pay in local taxes. The National Academy of Sciences found that the average immigrant imposes a net lifetime fiscal cost on state and local governments of $25,000. However, immigrants and their descendants collectively provide more to the federal government in taxes than they receive in benefits at the federal level. This is because most of the taxes immigrants pay income and social security taxes go to the federal government, while many of the services they use schools, hospitals, and roads are provided by state and local governments.

Senator Clinton's amendment would address the need to reimburse state and local communities by directing fees already part of the pending immigration bill into the State Impact Assistance Account at the Treasury created in the immigration bill as an empty account with no stated purpose. Senator Clinton's measure makes this account the mechanism for reimbursing states and local communities.

Seventy-five percent of the money collected would go to states and localities to pay for the costs of providing health and education services to non-citizens. This funding will be allocated among the states in accordance with a funding formula that is based on the size and the recent growth of the State's non-citizen population. The remaining 25 percent of the money collected would go to the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP) to pay for the costs of state and localities in detaining non-citizens. Each year, the SCAAP program is underfunded. A 2005 GAO study found that states and local communities get only 25 percent of their costs reimbursed through the program. New York has received even less 21 percent of costs were compensated in 2002 and 24 percent in 2003.

To ensure funds get to the counties and cities as intended, Senator Clinton's amendment also requires at least 70 percent of the funds to be passed through to localities within 180 days of states receiving the money. States retain the remaining 30 percent to help offset their own immigration costs.

Senator Clinton's amendment is supported by the National Immigration Law Center, the National League of Cities, and the National Association of Counties, and the National Conference of State Legislatures.

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