BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The chairman of the new Immigration Task Force admits the committee will not be able to solve the problem of illegal immigration, but instead will try to determine how much it cost the state.
Alfredo Carerra listened closely from the audience to the committee members as they discussed the problems the state faces from people moving here illegally. Carerra moved to Louisiana for construction work after Hurricane Katrina.
"Today more than anything we just came out to learn about what's going on in this committee and what they want to talk about and what their plans and tactics might be," he said through an interpreter in Spanish.
"A lot of what they think they know might not actually be the truth, for example we do pay a lot of taxes and a lot of the work we do is supporting the community and the economy. We are not necessarily a burden to the state."
Representative Valerie Hodges disagrees. Hodges said the task force was set up because no one really knows how much the state spends on illegal immigr ants.
"The federal government says you have to pay for this, you have to educate them and you have to pay for their healthcare, pregnancies, provide meals for them and we don't have the money," she said. "We have a $1.6 billion deficit. Federal government give us the money."
The task force is also made of members from the law enforcement community. Committee member Diane Long represents the Eagle Forum and the Louisiana Power Coalition.
Long is concerned about situations where officers on the street come into contact with people who could possibly be in this country illegally.
"Right now we have no way of really determining whether somebody is a legal or not," Long said. "The sheriff's department told me point blank they just can't determine."
Representatives of the Department of Health and Hospitals and the Department of Education will give their reports of the impact of illegal immigration at the task force's next meeting in October.
According to a release from the Louisiana House of Representatives, other Immigration Task Force members include Michael Barnett of the Louisiana Sheriff's Association, Lt. Tim Browning of the Louisiana Police Chiefs Association, Jason Starnes of Louisiana State Police, Supreme Court Justice Jeff Hughes, Chris Holton of the Center for Security Policy, Greg Waddell of the Louisiana Hospital Association, Clay Pinson of the National Federation of Independent Businesses, and Leila Braswell of the Louisiana District Attorney Association.