... 6365&rfi=6

While it may be costing Suffolk County taxpayers roughly $10 million each year to house illegal immigrants in the county's jail system, the federal government recently agreed to alleviate some of the financial burden by giving Suffolk back approximately $1.7 million through the US Department of Justice's State Criminal Alien Assistance Program.

"This is the largest amount we've ever gotten," said Suffolk County Sheriff Vincent DeMarco, whose office applied for the funding last year. "It's definitely nice to be getting this chunk of money. I think we got a decent amount compared to the percentage [approximately $256 million] that was available nationwide."
According to a statement from the DOJ, the SCAAP "provides federal payments to states and localities that incurred correctional officer salary costs for incarcerating undocumented criminal aliens who have at least one felony or two misdemeanor convictions for violations of state or local law, and who are incarcerated for at least four consecutive days during the reporting period."
Since 1997, Suffolk County has received about $11 million from the SCAAP. Although specific conditions will go into effect next year, currently, there are no restrictions on how the money can be used. The $1.7 million Suffolk got this year is slated to go back into the county's general fund.
Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy, who called the funding "a drop in the bucket" when compared to the amount of taxpayer money being spent on criminal aliens, said the money will be used to "defray costs" in the sheriff's budget.
Citing overcrowding and financial strains that are being placed on the county's jail system because of illegal immigrants, DeMarco said he hopes the money will be put towards the cost of "housing out" inmates to places such as Riker's Island and Albany.
"This year, we have $3.5 million for substitute housing costs, and we've already spent $2 million," he said, noting that it costs $125 each day to house an inmate at Riker's Island, and $85 a day to house them at Albany's county jail, plus transportation expenditures. "Our jail population is still growing - it's higher than it was last year. Right now, we're housing about 163 illegal aliens in the jail, and we're averaging close to 140 inmates housed in alternate facilities each day - there's definitely a direct correlation here."
Approximately 10% of Suffolk County's jail population consists of illegal immigrants, and DeMarco's office has been working with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials to move illegals out of the county jails, and into federal custody, quicker. According to the sheriff's office, 376 illegal immigrants were "discharged" to ICE for "deportation hearings" in 2006. This year, DeMarco believes that number will double, as 298 illegals already have been discharged to ICE in 2007.
"They've been here almost everyday," the sheriff said of ICE officials. "They're right on top of it, and are doing what they can, but I think more still needs to be done on the federal level."
Noting that he is "very happy" with the funding he received to compensate for the illegal aliens the jail is housing, DeMarco said he hopes the federal government will increase the amount of money available nationwide for the SCAAP. "I think that pot of money - that $256 million - should be a lot bigger," he said.
Both DeMarco and Levy noted that the county lost out on funding in 2005, as former Sheriff Al Tisch's administration did not apply for the SCAAP money in 2004.
As for whether Suffolk will continue to receive more than $1 million from this program in coming years, DeMarco commented, "As the numbers keep going up, we should be getting more money. We definitely need it."