County Acts to Recoup Money Used on Aliens

Times Staff Writer

Alarmed at figures showing that county taxpayers spent nearly $300 million last year providing services to illegal aliens, the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday backed an array of remedies aimed at recouping some of the costs and halting the flow of aliens into the country.

On separate votes, the board authorized seeking federal reimbursement of $272.1 million, either through legal action or a letter to Congress; called for the military to help Border Patrol agents, and backed establishment of "immigration disaster" or "immigration impact" zones.

The authors of the proposals acknowledged that some of the suggested remedies will face uphill battles to win the federal support necessary to implement them. But Supervisors Pete Schabarum and Mike Antonovich said federal officials need to be reminded repeatedly of the strain illegal aliens are placing on the county budget.

Supervisor Ed Edelman opposed the board majority, arguing that while illegal aliens do take advantage of public services, they also "make a contribution." Edelman cited county figures indicating that illegal aliens last year paid about $110 million in taxes that wound up in the county treasury.

Antonovich, a GOP candidate for U.S. Senate, proposed the creation of the immigration disaster zones as well as the military augmentation of Border Patrol efforts, particularly at the Mexican border near San Ysidro. For years an advocate of tightening restrictions on illegal aliens, Antonovich said afterward that he will incorporate the proposals into his U.S. Senate campaign to unseat incumbent Democrat Alan Cranston.

'Not a New Concept'

Antonovich said his backing of immigration disaster aid to those areas hit hardest economically by illegal aliens "is not a new concept" and has been proposed in other border areas, particularly in Texas.

"I'm not aware that (the idea has) gone anywhere," Antonovich said, "but this may be a way of drawing attention to a problem."

As for enlisting military support of Border Patrol agents, Antonovich suggested that sailors stationed in San Diego and Marines at Camp Pendleton can be used in the San Ysidro area. He acknowledged that federal law does not authorize use of the military for ground patrols along the border, but he noted that Navy and Coast Guard patrols in the ocean have helped curb drug trafficking from Mexico.

Antonovich's proposals followed those by fellow board conservative Schabarum that the county should attempt to recover an estimated $272.1 million spent last year on welfare, health and justice services associated with illegal aliens living in Los Angeles County. A county estimate, described as "conservative" by Chief Administrative Officer James Hankla, places the number of illegals living in the county at about 648,000.

Schabarum conceded that the letter he proposed be sent to congressional leaders demanding reimbursement will be "a symbolic gesture."

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