Feds Cut Funds As Illegals Fill Jails

June 15, 2005: Feds Cut Funds As Illegals Fill Jails


Los Angeles Daily News

Feds cut funds as illegals fill jails

By Troy Anderson
Staff Writer

Wednesday, June 15, 2005 – Despite the soaring cost of incarcerating criminal aliens nationwide, the federal government has reduced its reimbursements to state and local governments, two new reports by the U.S. Government Accountability Office found.

California spent $635 million in 2003 to incarcerate criminal aliens in state prisons, but received only $77 million in reimbursements from the federal government, the reports showed. The Los Angeles County jail system spent $55 million housing illegal aliens in 2003, but received only $14 million in reimbursements.

“It's a tremendous burden for the taxpayers of Los Angeles County and we would put the figure more at about $80 million (a year),” Sheriff's Department spokesman Steve Whitmore said Tuesday. “It is a federal problem that is not funded federally. It is funded by the taxpayers of Los Angeles County.”

The issue has gained the attention of U.S. senators from California, Arizona and Texas, who are demanding that Washington chip in $6.4 billion to cover the costs of jailing undocumented criminals.

The GAO report estimated the U.S. Bureau of Prisons' costs to incarcerate criminal aliens and reimburse state and local governments rose from $950 million in 2001 to $1.2 billion in 2004, a 14 percent increase. But during that time, federal reimbursements for incarcerating criminal aliens in state prisons and local jails dropped from $550 million to $280 million.

Those funds were paid to reimburse 700 local governments for incarcerating about 147,000 criminal aliens nationwide, with five jail systems accounting for 30 percent of the criminal aliens. These include jails in Los Angeles County, Orange County, Maricopa County, Ariz., New York City and Harris County, Texas.

About 65 percent of these inmates were from Mexico.

“It places a heavy burden on taxpayers to provide a cost-effective jail system,” Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich said. “Los Angeles County has approximately 25 percent of its inmates who are illegal aliens. The federal government must assume the responsibility for providing those costs to keep them in jail and also to develop a system that will deport these individuals and ensure they don't come back into our country and once again commit crimes.

“The federal government has not done a good job in policing our borders or deporting criminal aliens and the local taxpayers have been victimized by this failure of the federal government.”

A second GAO study analyzing 55,322 illegal aliens incarcerated in the United States in 2003 found they averaged about eight arrests each.

Nearly half of the arrests were for drug or immigration offenses, but 15 percent were property-related crimes and 12 percent were for murder, robbery, assault and sex-related crimes. Nearly 60 percent of the arrests occurred in California.
Troy Anderson, (213) 974-8985 troy.anderson@dailynews.com