The Seattle Times has a story this morning tallying up the cost of undocumented immigrants to the state and the weight of recent and future budget cuts on immigrants in particular. The article features GOP budget writer Sen. Joe Zarelli (R-18 Ridgefield), who tells the Times,, "We've got to question whether we can afford to have state-only programs that only serve illegal-immigrant populations."

According the Times:
Overall, Washington is projected to spend more than $300 million over the next two years on services that illegal immigrants can tap, primarily welfare for children and health care for children, the seriously ill and pregnant women. However, programs that account for most of that spending are effectively off-limits to budget cuts, because of federal restrictions.

[...] The state is expected to spend more than $100 million over two years on services the Legislature has the authority to change or eliminate, including $59 million for medical and dental care for more than 25,000 children from low-income families. The children are not eligible for Medicaid because there's no proof they're here legally.

An additional $24 million is expected to be spent for kidney dialysis and cancer treatment for about 1,300 people ineligible for Medicaid because they also can't prove they're legal residents.

Millions more will go to in-state tuition subsidies for college students and nursing-home care.

The state also expects to spend about $200 million over two years on two other programs that officials say the state can't change due to federal restrictions. Those programs receive federal matching dollars, and changing them could put overall federal Medicaid funding at risk, state officials said.

Of course, cutting health services for undocumented immigrants is not without its fiscal consequences:
Advocates for such programs contend eliminating health-care services for illegal immigrants could cost more in the long run, in part because they end up in emergency rooms where care is more expensive.

Fatima Morales, with the Washington Community Action network, said proposals that target illegal immigrants — aside from ignoring the fact that they do pay taxes — are immoral.

"Everyone deserves access to health care, to services, to have a decent life," she said. "It's the humane thing to do. It's the morally right thing to do."

Josh had a feature piece on Zarelli a few weeks back that focused on the senator's role in the supplemental budget talks and his goals for shaping the 2011-2013 budget. Zarelli told PubliCola, "Let’s come out of this getting more out of our programs, let’s clean them up so we’re serving the most vulnerable—not just everybody we want.  Let’s focus on the right group of people.”
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