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State, Counties Don't Have Money to Burn

November 09, 2003

"Patients Without Borders" (Nov. 5), about San Diego hospitals attempting to send indigent illegals back to Mexico for care after they have received emergency treatment, comes at a propitious time for reflection. San Diego is reeling from a disaster that exposed its lack of funding for fire prevention and firefighting resources, which contributed greatly to the loss of life and property in the Cedar fire. The article points out that indigent illegal immigrant care cost L.A. County hospitals $340 million last year. It's not difficult to project the cost statewide, which has to be in the billions, based on the reported average hospital stay of $1,737 a day.

Indeed, if the admitted 2 million illegals driving in California without licenses, registration or insurance used an average of as little as $1,000 of unpaid hospital care for an entire year, that would cost $2 billion -- most plausible considering that emergency rooms are also their source of primary care. Gov. Gray Davis recently signed a bill to give them driver's licenses, as he fought to keep his job. Meanwhile, San Diego County fire districts have the same inadequate budgets and continue to rely in part on volunteers. Unlike the hospitals, San Diego does not have anywhere to send the fires. Does anyone see anything wrong? I'm sure the people who voted for the recall do.

Gary Rudnick

Palm Desert

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Your article was very interesting, and the savings are obvious. I have wondered for years why we don't do the same for prisoners in the state system. We spend a huge amount for nickel-and-dime drug sales -- putting illegals in prison and, upon release, dropping them over the border. We should contract with the Mexican government that when an illegal has a felony conviction here, he will be housed in Mexico -- where he knows the language and food and is near his family.

Even paying for such Mexican incarceration could be a huge savings to our state and could eliminate costs for parole. Another benefit would be helping Mexicans establish another paying business in their country, providing jobs.

Marie A. Wade

Hermosa Beach

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