Two San Diego police officers, responding in the early morning darkness to a call that a school was being burglarized, arrived just as two suspects were fleeing into a nearby canyon. As the San Diego Union reported, the officers did not plunge into the canyon in pursuit—the terrain was dangerous, night visibility almost zero, and the officers didn’t know-if the suspects were armed—but instead called out the standard warning, in English, that if the suspects didn’t return voluntarily, they would send in their trained German shepherd. No response, so they loosed the dog.

The dog soon found a man, clamped his teeth firmly on his leg, and didn’t let go until the officers pulled him off, which is precisely what such dogs are supposed to do. However, the man the dog found was not a burglar, but an illegal alien from Mexico, part of a small group of illegals sleeping in the canyon. The native of Oaxaca didn’t hear the warning call, and wouldn’t have understood what was said anyway, because he spoke no English—nor Spanish, in fact, only the dialect of the Mixtec Indians.

The police promptly radioed for an ambulance to take the man to the nearest emergency room, where many stitches were taken in his leg. He spent some twenty hours at the hospital, was given a pair of crutches, some bus tokens, and told to return for follow-up treatment.

Questions arise: who will pay for the ambulance run, or the hospital treatment? Sometimes hospitals put in claims, to one or another government agency when there is neither money nor insurance to cover costs. If the claims are denied, hospitals and private ambulances have little choice but to recoup their losses by raising the rates of paying patients. In this case, a personal injury attorney surfaced in less than two days, planning to sue the city of San Diego on behalf of the injured man. If he wins, taxpayers will pick up the tab.

California has the largest number of illegal aliens of any state in the country, though there is no accurate figure on just how many there are. It is almost impossible to get accurate figures on the costs that taxpayers pick up, but there are clues.

If someone is injured in an auto accident and his life is in danger, if he has been stabbed or shot during a fight, or if a child is seriously hurt in some manner, all are normally treated even if the hospital finds that there is no way the victim can pay for the services. How can one refuse to treat a human being in critical need of care? In one way or another, the costs are picked up by someone else, by taxpayers or other patients. If illegal aliens crossing the border are hurt or raped by a border bandit, they are taken to a hospital on this side of the border, and someone else picks up the tab.

Many Mexican women come across the border illegally to have their babies. Hospitals do not turn away someone in labor just because she has no money or insurance, so the woman will pay nothing for services received. Some mothers return south of the border promptly, content that the child will be able to claim U.S. citizenship when the need arises. Others, including entire families, stay here because of the welfare benefits. Because the baby is automatically an American citizen, he or she is entitled to all the giveaway programs that needy citizens receive: Aid to Families of Dependent Children (AFDC), food stamps, Medicaid.

A few years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that children of illegal aliens are entitled to the same education as an American citizen, and along much of the entire Southern border, the numbers of new students are so high that many school districts should be adding as much as a classroom every day, were they to try to keep up with attendance. They can’t afford to do this. Moreover, there is an unknown number of children who, using false addresses in the United States, cross the border everyday to attend California schools. There can be twenty-five or more youngsters all claiming the same address for school records. When asked why school districts don’t check up on this and deny Mexican nationals use of the schools, the usual response is, “We don’t have the resources to do the checking. Many think they don’t want to sort them out, because each school district receives an average daily attendance fee from the state for every child, and it keeps more teachers employed.

A certain percentage of illegal aliens enter this country for the express purpose of engaging in criminal activity. The massive drug activity is widely known, but there is much more. There is rampant auto theft, burglaries of homes and businesses, and the full gamut of crimes against the person.

A judge in Orange County has found that at least 36 percent of his docket is filled with cases involving illegal aliens who have been arrested for felonies. A recent study in San Diego County found that 41 percent of those arrested for felony crimes are illegals. At any given time in San Diego County jails, about 15 percent of prisoners have immigration holds on them. There are 17 known gangs from Baja, California, who cross the border to commit their crimes, up to and including homicide. Federal and state prisons, as well as county jails, have a high percentage of illegals in their census; some surveys show that one out of five prisoners in American jails is an illegal alien. This costs the public money in arrests, trials, public defenders, and incarceration, let alone in the opportunity costs entailed.

Those who try to get hard figures on uses of public money for illegal aliens are usually stonewalled.’ “We don’t keep our records that way.” In many cases, agencies that provide money and services have been forbidden to keep records of the alienage status of those they service, or even to ask their status, in some cases as a result of court decisions. However, some figures are known. The net loss to L.A. County’ for subsidized medical care for illegals and for use of the criminal justice system to apprehend illegals is estimated at $276.1 million. AFDC costs to taxpayers in L.A. County are already $249 million, a sum expected to reach $1 billion by the turn of the century. Overall, Los Angeles and L.A. County in fiscal year 1990-1991 spent $1.6 billion for services rendered to illegal aliens.

The most accurate figures seem to be from L.A. County, because their Board of Supervisors—unlike those in San Diego and other counties, where they shy from talking about costs to the public—is actually interested in finding the costs. Many local city and county governments care little about alienage, except to try to be reimbursed by the federal government for any known expenses. They tend to look at federal money as “free” money—it doesn’t come from their budgets. When a California state senator tried to get figures on a statewide level, the protests from immigrants’ rights groups were deafening, and he was denounced as “racist.” At last report, he was still trying to find hard figures.

California has illegal aliens from all over the world, though its geography means most are from south of the border. They all cost the taxpayer, not only in giveaway programs but in the taking of jobs that could and would have been filled by American citizens. Those who do menial labor, including working in the fields, take jobs from native migrant workers. Those with more skills are often in construction work, happily accepting a lesser wage than citizens normally get. However, law enforcement professionals find that in the last ten years, this profile of the diligent illegal alien has changed. Most illegals used to be desperate, hardworking, uneducated, and docile and would go home after a growing season. Such people still enter, but their percentage is decreasing, as more enter to panhandle, rob, steal, and deal drugs.

How do you levy the cost to landowners who find a few or a great number of illegals living on their property? How do you levy the cost to businesses that have large clusters of illegals hanging around their entrances, waiting for day work, frightening passersby, and scaring away regular customers? Local police are of little help to them because of the assorted court and bureaucratic decisions spurred by immigration advocates who have deemed illegal aliens a federal, and not a local, problem. There is a grossly insufficient number of federal agents to handle the sheer volume of illegals who should be deported. These illegals are living in holes in the ground lined with plastic sheets, or in hovels built from scrap lumber, with no cooking or plumbing facilities, as they wait for work. Result: the areas inundated with illegals become instant sewers, and more than one large fire has started from their open-air cooking.

Perhaps some day it will be politically fashionable to do the paperwork needed to assess the cost of allowing illegal aliens in our country—the cost of illegals using government programs to which they are not entitled, the cost of losing jobs to illegal noncitizens, the cost of sending the illegals home. Perhaps some day politicians will realize that our borders are out of control and do something constructive about it, such as hiring adequate numbers of Border Patrol and INS agents to cut the problem off at the source. Perhaps some day citizens from all over the country will realize how great a proportion of their taxes go for these purposes and that, although California has the greatest problem with this issue, similar conditions and expenses are occurring all over the nation. At that point, the people will give Congress a mandate: fix the problem, and fix it now.