States Will Pay Up to Jail Immigrants as Congress Cuts Funds

| by Allison Geller

The federal government has slashed spending for the detention of undocumented immigrants, leaving state and local governments—and taxpayers— to bear the brunt.

Passed in Congress this week, the bill cuts the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP) by $60 million, or about 25%. Taxpayers will have no choice but to pick up the slack, reports USA Today, since state and local governments are obligated to incarcerate immigrants convicted of crimes.

"This is already a burden for state and local law enforcement and county budgets, and this latest cut just makes things worse," said Matt Chase, executive director of the National Association of Counties.

"Our view is that it's the federal government's role to take care of illegal immigration. They're supposed to protect the borders but they've failed and local law enforcement is paying for the consequences of undocumented aliens being in the country."

States with dense immigrant populations like California, Texas, Florida, New York and Arizona are expected to be the hardest hit.

"Arizona has never been fully reimbursed for our costs, so this is like rubbing salt in the wound," said Mesa, Ariz., Mayor Scott Smith, who is president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors. "It's another example of a federal mandate that is going unfunded. It's just unconscionable that the federal government puts us in this position."

The SCAAP has never been fully covered by the federal government. At a peak of $565 million in 2002, it has since dropped to $283 billion in 2013, and will ebb to $180 million in 2014.

Last year’s immigration reform bill passed in the Senate included an amendment by Sen. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) to increase funding to the program.

Sources: USA Today