Illegal Immigrants Cost Florida More Than $1 Billion a Year, Governor Says


Illegal immigrants are costing Florida more than $1 billion a year and forcing the state to shortchange legal residents, Gov. Lawton Chiles told the federal Commission on Immigration Reform on Friday.

Florida, along with other border states such as Texas and California, have become increasingly aggressive in pressing the federal government to pick up more of the costs.

Federal law requires states to educate and provide health care for illegal immigrants. But the federal government has inadequately funded programs that were supposed to reimburse states for those costs, forcing Floridians to pick up the difference, Chiles told the nine-member commission, which will recommend changes in immigration law to Congress.

The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service estimates that 345,000 immigrants are living illegally in Florida.


The governor’s remarks, and his recent threat to sue the federal government, are at the forefront of a rebellion among states that feel they can no longer pay the costs of illegal immigrants.

Meanwhile, the state went to court Friday to defend its policy of refusing foster care to children of illegal immigrants. Florida contends those children are the responsibility of the INS.