Reform Group Says Illegals Cost Ga. $2.4 Billion

DUNWOODY, Ga.,None — Supporters of immigration reform in Georgia say illegal immigrants cost the state taxpayers more than $2 billion each year.

Channel 2 political reporter Lori Geary spoke to fact-checkers with Politifact Georgia who went digging to see if there's any validity to the claim, proposed by the Washington-based Federation for American Immigration Reform. FAIR released a statement claiming illegal immigrants in Georgia cost tax payers $2.4 billion, partly spent in the criminal justice system and health care.

According to several organizations, there are about 425,000 illegal immigrants. Politifact editor Jim Tharpe said compared to other states, Georgia has the seventh largest number of illegal immigrants in the country.

"A lot of emergency rooms are strapped. This is an enormous cost if someone illegal comes in to have a baby. That can cost $10,000 right off the bat," Politifact editor Jim Tharpe told Geary.

FAIR contends the biggest cost of illegal immigration, more than 50 percent, is education. The group also estimates there are more than 133,000 illegal immigrants in Georgia's school system -- for a total tally of almost $1.5 billion.

But the exact cost is difficult to pin down because no one knows for sure how many illegal immigrants are in Georgia. Politifact reporter Eric Sturgus added that FAIR's tally may be misleading because of the way illegal immigrants were counted.

"They're including U.S. born children of illegal immigrants who constitutionally do have a right to public education," Sturgus said.

A FAIR spokesman defended the number, saying the children would not be in Georgia schools and would not qualify for means-tested government assistance programs if not for the fact that their parents are here illegally.

FAIR's $4.2 million claim was ruled half-true on Politifact's truthometer.

"We think FAIR is on target. There's a very large number that are costing the state. However, we think it's impossible to say specifically that it's $2.4 billion," Tharpe said.