A legislative task force that will issue a report on the economic impact that illegal immigration has on Louisiana taxpayers met briefly at the Capitol on Thursday.
State Rep. Valarie Hodges, a Denham Springs Republican and author of the bill that created the Immigration Task Force this session, told the panel Thursday that the group is on a fact-finding mission.
“We’re not here to demonize individuals and families who come here to the United States,” she said. “We had a $1.6 billion deficit this session … this is not an area we looked at to cut spending.”
Pew estimates that about 55,000 of the nation’s 11.2 million undocumented immigrants were in Louisiana in 2012. According to that analysis, Louisiana’s figure pales in comparison to states like California, Texas and Florida, and even North Carolina, Oklahoma and Massachusetts.
Still, it has remained a hot-button issue among many conservatives here and drew even more attention last fall, as thousands of unaccompanied immigrant children crossed the U.S. border.
According to federal data, about 321 were placed with sponsors in Louisiana from September 2014 through this July — significantly below the prior year’s 1,755 that were placed in Louisiana.
The influx prompted Gov. Bobby Jindal, a Republican who is running for president, and other state officials to travel to the U.S.-Mexico border last fall. (For more on Jindal’s immigration stance, see his recent response to pro-amnesty protesters at the Iowa State Fair.)
Hodges said that state lawmakers struggled to get adequate and accurate information this session when dealing with immigration issues.
“You can’t fix what you cant identify,” she said. “It’s a very complex issue.”
That’s why she felt a task force was needed to gather information on the “fiscal, medical, nutritional, educational, judicial, criminal, penal, and economic impact.”
The task force’s next meeting is scheduled for Oct. 22.
Here is the video, dated 2010, that the task force and attendees watched Thursday.