Posted on Fri, Nov. 04, 2005

Lawmakers boost funding for jailing criminal illegal immigrants

Associated Press

WASHINGTON - In welcome news for California, House and Senate budget writers agreed Friday to commit $405 million in 2006 to reimbursing states for jailing illegal immigrants who commit crimes.

It would be the largest amount spent on the program in four years. California lawmakers applauded the news, even though the state still will not get enough to cover the costs of prison time for illegal immigrants.

"Our state bears the heavy financial burden of incarcerating illegal immigrants, even though stopping immigration is a federal responsibility," said Rep. David Dreier, R-San Dimas. "This increased funding will help local and state law enforcement cover these costs."

State officials estimate that paying to incarcerate illegal immigrants who commit crimes now costs California more than $750 million a year. In years past the state has been reimbursed less than 25 percent the amount it has spent on jailing the aliens.

President Bush proposed in his 2006 budget entirely eliminating money for the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program. Lawmakers working on a bill to fund Commerce, Justice and Science programs added it back in.

The bill is expected to be approved by the full House and Senate later this month.

The $405 million compares to $305 million for the program in 2005; $297 million in 2004; and $250 million in 2003, Sen. Dianne Feinstein's office said. California generally gets about 40 percent of the money.

"This funding goes a long way toward ensuring that the federal government lives up to its responsibility to pay for incarcerating these individuals. But there is no question that far more funding is needed," Feinstein said.