House Restores Funding To Jail Illegal Immigrants

House restores funding to jail illegal immigrants

By David Sherfinski
The Washington Examiner (DC), June 28, 2009

The U.S. House of Representatives has voted to restore $400 million in funding for state and local jails to incarcerate criminal illegal immigrants, a program which would reimburse Fairfax and Prince William counties a total of $1.5 million.

The Commonwealth of Virginia would also receive $1.7 million if funds for the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program provided under the measure, which was included in the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations bill, are approved. SCAAP funding had been cut in President Barack Obamas proposed fiscal 2010 budget.

'This funding will be a great help in these hard financial times,' said Fairfax County Sheriff Stan Barry.

Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., wrote a letter, co-signed by five other members, urging the chairman and ranking member on the House Committee on Appropriations to include funding for the program.

'This action represents the expansion of an unfunded federal mandate and increases the already undue financial burden of state and local governments by $400 million,' they wrote. 'The presence of undocumented, convicted criminals in state and local correctional facilities represents a failure of the federal government to live up to its responsibility.'

Prince William County Board of Supervisors Chairman Corey Stewart, R-at large, agreed.

'Lets be clear this is a big unfunded mandate right now,' he said. 'Were bearing the cost of illegal immigration, when its the federal governments job to secure the borders.'

The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1990 created SCAAP to assist state and local governments in dealing with undocumented criminals. Reimbursements are made to help pay for the cost of jailing undocumented criminals convicted of either a felony or two or more misdemeanors. In 2008, funds were distributed to 822 localities and 49 states.

'Maintaining a stable border is a federal responsibility,' said Arthur Wallenstein, director of the Montgomery County jail. 'It is an enormous cost.'

Wallenstein praised Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., for being a leader in restoring the funds in past years. The White House has tried to eliminate the funding for four consecutive budget cycles.