Border Impact Study: The Costs for Law Enforcement, Criminal Justice and Emergency Medical Services

Date: February 13, 2001
To: Board of Supervisors

On June 16, 1998 (1), the Board of Supervisors approved Supervisor Cox's recommendations to partner with border counties in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas to create the Border Counties Coalition.

Receive the report Border Impact Study: The Costs for Law Enforcement, Criminal Justice and Emergency Medical Services commissioned by the U.S./Mexico Border Counties Coalition (Attachment A).

Fiscal Impact:
There are no fiscal impacts associated with these recommendations.

San Diegans have long suspected that we live with both a tremendous opportunity and a unique challenge due to our proximity to the international border with Mexico. The San Diego region is one region and one community but also two nations. For this reason, the federal government has a greater responsibility to provide the appropriate resources required by border counties to mitigate the impact of expenses generated by our proximity to an international border. San Diego County incurs additional costs, not shared by non-border counties, for public services such as emergency medical care and law enforcement. Statistics show that in 1999 alone there were 55.7 million border crossings into San Diego County and 172,000 apprehensions of undocumented immigrants.

Due to these unique circumstances and the need for federal resources, it became obvious that elected officials from border counties needed to work together to share strategies and address mutual concerns. In June 1998, representatives from 10 border counties met in San Diego to discuss the creation of an organization to unite border counties. The U.S./Mexico Border Counties Coalition was formed soon after with the following goals in mind:

Obtain additional federal reimbursement for costs incurred by counties for public safety and public health services; Seek better federal oversight in conducting the 2000 census in border counties; Provide stronger advocacy for border counties; Advocate for a stronger Congressional focus on air and water quality along the border.

The U.S./Mexico Border Counties Coalition was successful drawing attention to these issues and with the support of all eight U.S. Senators from the border states, legislation was passed and federal funding approved for a study to determine the actual costs of border counties with respect to the provision of public safety and public health services to undocumented immigrants.

The research for this study was funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice and awarded to the U.S./Mexico Border Counties Coalition in January 2000. The purpose of this study is to clearly delineate the costs to 23 of the 24 border counties for providing services to undocumented immigrants in the areas of law enforcement, criminal justice and emergency medical care. As outlined in the study, data was examined for fiscal year 1998-1999. Cost estimates presented in this study are general fund costs except in special cases that are noted. It should be noted that the costs outlined in this study do not include the criminal justice or emergency medical care costs associated with "border-crossers", who have permission to enter the United States for employment or retail opportunities.

The results are in for 23 of the 24 border counties in four states with a combined population of over 6.3 million residents along 1,956 miles of the border and the costs are very high. Costs to 23 of the 24 border counties total $108.2 million with California border counties shouldering $55.7 million.

The San Diego specific portion of the study estimates that "the total cost to San Diego County of apprehending and adjudicating criminal undocumented immigrants, and providing emergency medical care services to undocumented immigrants in FY 1999 was estimated to be $50,257,756. This figure includes indirect general government costs." Cost studies were conducted for the county departments of sheriff, district attorney, public defender and alternate public defender, probation services medical examiner, Marshall (now part of the Sheriff*s Department) and court maintenance. Costs were also estimated for emergency medical care and autopsies performed on undocumented immigrants.

While limited federal funding does exist to reimburse counties, less than $9 million in SCAAP funding was granted towards the $39 million actually incurred in the criminal justice system in San Diego. The emergency medical costs are estimated in this study to reach $10,335,254 for San Diego County. In the Balanced Budget Act of 1997, Congress authorized payments to states to be used for reimbursement of such costs, but no funding has been received by San Diego area hospitals.

This study does not account for all the health care costs for border counties. Approximately $300,000 in funding for a more in depth analysis was introduced by Arizona Senator Jon Kyl and signed into law by President Clinton in December 2000.

This study is a foundation upon which border counties can build a significant case for increased federal funding and assistance. The U.S./Mexico Border Counties Coalition will continue to advocate for resources to ensure that border counties can meet both the opportunities and the challenges presented by their proximity to an international border.

Support for the recommendations contained in this board letter will renew this Board of Supervisors commitment to pursuing reimbursement for expenses that are the responsibility of the federal government.

We urge your support!

Respectfully submitted,


Supervisor, Second District