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Golding Should Check Facts on Illegal Aliens

May 18, 1986

In her two years on the San Diego County Board of Supervisors, Susan Golding often has been out front on issues that demanded the board's attention. She took the lead, for example, in the county's response to the AIDS crisis and in moving toward providing assistance for the homeless.

But last week, Golding leaped, without first taking a good look, into the issue of how much stress illegal aliens place on county government's finances. Golding proposed at a press conference that the county sue the federal government to recover millions of dollars she says the county spends on "a national problem," and she waved an "invoice" for more than $23 million in identifiable costs incurred by the county's criminal justice and health and social service systems.

Golding may be right in trying to call attention to the fact that the federal government's lack of an immigration policy means there are few controls over how many illegal aliens pour into San Diego County and other areas along the border from here to Texas. But the hysterical tone and clumsy approach she used did not serve her cause well.

Peppering her remarks with lines such as, "We are being invaded by illegal aliens," Golding cited figures she said demonstrate the scope of the problem aliens cause for law enforcement. Unfortunately, some of the statistics she used were bogus. "The sheriff estimates that 61.5% of all rapes . . . in our county are committed by aliens," she said. But it turns out that that and other crime figures cited were taken only from two substations in North County--areas with high populations of migrant Mexican farm workers. The 61.5% rape figure was based on only 13 cases. The Sheriff's Department handled 90 rapes last year and 148 the year before.

While she fired off plenty of cost figures, Golding gave no context for them, ignoring any information about how much money illegal aliens add to the local economy or pay in taxes.

Illegal immigration undoubtedly does add a burden to San Diego County, and it is proper for local officials to try to get Washington's attention and help in dealing with it. But it is not right to blow the negative impact of illegal aliens out of proportion--especially by misusing crime statistics in a way that makes these people seem more of a threat to our lives and property than they really are.

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