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The 'drain' on the state budget

February 07, 2009

Re "Immigration a factor in budget math," Column, Feb. 2

Finally a sensible, insightful article about the drain that illegal immigrants place on the state budget.

California residents and government officials need to face the facts -- we can no longer afford illegal immigration. For every illegal immigrant hired as a nanny, maid, gardener, meat cutter, driver or agricultural worker, the public is paying for the education and medical needs of their families, to the tune of billions of dollars.

Is there no politician who will stand up, admit the truth and do something to rid the state of this burden?

Bonnie Owen

Marina del Rey

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George Skelton tries to take an evenhanded approach, arguing that undocumented immigrants are not, as some suggest, responsible for California's budget crisis but also insisting that they are a substantial burden on public resources.

We appreciate the attempt at balance but would have hoped for more attention to immigrants' many payoffs, not just their costs. According to our estimates, immigrants, including those without papers, contribute more than 40% of our region's total economic product -- and thus enhance the tax base. Immigrants are also an important part of a bottom-up strategy for a housing recovery.

Our published research shows that more than half of Mexican immigrants have become homeowners by the time they have lived 20 years in California -- and immigrants and their landlords also pay property taxes, just like anyone else.

We should not shortchange all these contributions. While we agree with Skelton's call for comprehensive immigration reform at a federal level as a real solution, we fear that the emphasis on the "drain" that immigrants pose ignores the true contributions they bring to our region and our state.

Manuel Pastor

Dowell Myers

Los Angeles

The writers are co-directors of USC's Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration.

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