Arizona spends $640,000 on immigration training

October 29, 2012

PHOENIX (Associated Press) — Police agencies in Arizona have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars training officers to enforce the state's 2010 immigration law, despite claims from supporters that it wasn't going to cost much extra for the state's 15,000 officers to carry out the statute.

An informal survey by The Associated Press of selected police departments and a state agency that trains officers shows that seven agencies have spent a combined $640,000 on training that focused heavily on the law's requirement that officers, while enforcing other laws, question people's immigration status if they're believed to be in the country illegally. Other agencies were surveyed, but said no training cost estimates were available.

A federal judge gave police the go-ahead to start enforcing the law's questioning requirement on Sept. 18 after a two-year court battle waged by the Obama administration, immigrant rights advocates and others.

Lost in all the heated political rhetoric surrounding the law was the question about how much it would cost to carry out.

The spokesman for Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer said in the days after the questioning requirement took effect that he didn't know why there would be any additional costs in enforcing the measure.

Matthew Benson said that immigration inquiries are just another line of questioning for officers to work into their routines when they stop someone and have good reason to make immigration inquiries.

A week later, when told about training costs, Benson said the amount being spent on the law would still pale in comparison to the estimated $934 million in net costs from illegal immigration that the state had to eat in 2011, the last year for which an estimate was available.

That estimate includes the costs of educating illegal immigrants, jailing illegal immigrants arrested on state crimes and providing health care for those in the country illegally. "We are not talking about hundreds of thousands of dollars," Benson said.

Beyond the training, there are costs to actually enforce the law. Those figures are not known, although they aren't as great as opponents had predicted. 

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