This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2007, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Posted: 3:12 PM- A group of state lawmakers wants the federal government to reimburse Utah millions of dollars for the cost of educating the children of illegal immigrants, saying the children wouldn't be here if Congress did more to stem the flow of illegal immigrants into the US.
A state audit puts the costs of educating the children of illegal immigrants between $54.9 million and $85.4 million in the 2005-06 school year, a wide range that reflects the difficulty of counting the population.
A legislative committee voted Wednesday to send a copy of the audit to the state's congressional delegation, federal immigration officials and the U.S. Department of Education demanding that the state be reimbursed for its expenses educating those children.
"I doubt they'll pay it," said Rep. Stephen Urquhart, R-St. George. "But I think it's important that they hear from the states. It's important they hear the impact on this state of their inability to deal with this issue."
Many lawmakers in the Republican-controlled Legislature claim illegal immigrants are putting a strain on state services. They have repeatedly chastised Utah's congressional delegation for not doing more to stop illegal immigrants from crossing the nation's borders.
Utah spent about $3.5 billion on public education in 2005-06, including $500 million from the federal government.
Exact figures on the number of children of illegal immigrants aren't available, but the audit estimates there are 10,714 to 16,627.
On average, the audit found school districts spent about $500 more per school year educating the children of illegal immigrants in high school and about $140 more in kindergarten through eighth grade.
That is based on the assumption that children of illegal immigrants are likely to use services aimed at low-income families and also take classes to improve their English.
However, Hispanic advocates are calling for a comprehensive study that compares the cost of public services used by illegal immigrants to the contributions they make to Utah's economy.
They point to a 2006 study by the Texas Comptroller's Office that found illegal immigrants received $1.16 billion in state services but paid $1.58 billion in taxes.
But Sen. Margaret Dayton, R-Orem, said that study is flawed because it didn't count local expenses and Texas has a lottery to help fund its education system. Utah doesn't have a lottery and the state income tax is the primary source of state revenue for public schools.
"Our income tax goes to public education. Undocumented workers do not pay income tax unless they have a Social Security number that belongs to them," she said. "They do not pay into the uniform school fund like those people who have legal Social Security numbers."
Urquhart said he wanted legislative leaders from both parties to co-sign the letter. However, it quickly became clear that faced an uphill battle when Minority Caucus manager, Sen. Patricia Jones, D-Holladay, joined with two other Democrats on the committee in opposition to the letter.
"It is more complex than we're painting it here," Jones said. "Many of the businesses I've talked to, many would say their companies would fold if these people were excluded from the population."