State Rep. Lyle Larson wants Mexico to pay up

State Rep. Lyle Larson, R-San Antonio, wants our neighbor to the south to pay up for undocumented Mexicans living in Texas.

In a letter he sent to Mexican President Felipe Calderón last month, Larson asks the Mexican government to reimburse Texas for the cost of all services provided to undocumented Mexicans living in the state. He estimates in his letter that Texas spends $6-$8 billion (USD, of course, not pesos) providing health care, education and other services to some 1.6 million undocumented Mexican immigrants living in Texas.

“While Texans are committed to helping our neighbors when needed, it is clear that this continued expense is unsustainable,” Larson writes. “My intent is to begin a dialogue with your government to discuss ways to ensure that Texas is adequately compensated for the services rendered to Mexican citizens.”

Larson delves into how Mexico might develop a “compensation plan,” saying Texas would be open to “discussing other forms of payment,” such as if, say, Calderón were to open up mineral-rich areas of northern Mexico for U.S. oil and gas companies to develop as a sort of “in-kind payment.”

Indeed, South Texas' Eagle Ford Shale formation doesn't stop at the border. Last year Mexico's energy minister proposed boosting shale gas development in the country. Mexico's state oil company Pemex began drilling its first shale gas well in 2010 on land opposite the Eagle Ford play, following up with more wells last year.

“These companies would provide high paying jobs for Mexican citizens, while allowing Mexico to pay Texas back for the services we are rendering to citizens of your country,” Larson writes. “This is simply one example of many creative methods that can be explored once discussions begin.”

While it's unclear exactly how Larson came to the $6-$8 billion tab, his letter should come as no surprise. Last year he filed his “Share the Bill” bill at the Lege, calling for every agency, nonprofit or private entity that gets any state funding to track and report the citizenship of anyone using their services.

Gauging the financial impact of undocumented immigrants is tricky business, as former state comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn wrote in her 2006 report on the matter. Strayhorn's report estimated that undocumented immigrants living in Texas contributed some $17.7 billion in goods and services to the state in fiscal year '05.  She also wrote that the $1.58 billion they paid in taxes that year more than offset the estimated $1.6 billion in state services they used, though she also estimated local governments bore the burden of some $1.44 billion in health care and law enforcement costs not paid for by the state.

Click the link below to see Larson's full letter:

-- Michael Barajas, [email protected]

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