Sánchez Introduces Bill to Help Local Law Enforcement Get Reimbursed for Cost of Incarcerating Criminal Aliens

June 11, 2003
Press Release
Today Congresswoman Linda Sánchez introduced the “State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP) Reimbursement Protection Act of 2003.” Currently, California and other border states receive federal reimbursement to cover costs of incarcerating undocumented aliens who have been arrested in the United States on suspicion of having committed a crime. However, the Department of Justice (DOJ) is now planning to change its reimbursement formula to cut the amount of funding going to states and localities.

“The vast majority of immigrants are law abiding citizens who contribute greatly to our country. Unfortunately - as in all communities - there are a few exceptions to that rule. When an undocumented alien comes into the United States because of a failure in the federal government’s border program and is arrested for a crime, the states and localities who are already strapped for cash should not have to cover the costs of incarceration,” said Congresswoman Linda Sánchez.

Under the DOJ’s new reimbursement formula, the federal government would only cover incarceration costs to the state or locality if a criminal were ultimately convicted of a felony or two misdemeanors. This is a problem, because in many cases, individuals who are suspected of a crime are held in local or state prisons until their case is heard in a court of law. If the individual were cleared of the charges, the DOJ would not cover any of the incarceration costs.

“For example, in FY 2002 the state of California received $220.2 million in reimbursement funding. Under the proposed plan, the state would likely see an 18% cut in funds. Some localities would be expected to take on as much as 90% of the total costs for criminal aliens. With our state already facing a billion deficit, many local sheriff’s offices and police forces will not be able to afford theses costs,” said Sánchez.

Sánchez’ legislation is simple. It maintains the original DOJ reimbursement plan that covers all costs of incarcerating undocumented aliens for the states and localities whether the individual is charged or convicted. There are 47 original co-sponsors of Sánchez’ bill.

“If these localities are not able to cover the costs of incarceration on their own, they may face the difficult decision of releasing suspected criminals on bond. I have heard from many of the local enforcement agencies and officers in my district and they do not want this type of situation to occur. It would add heightened safety and security concerns to our families and communities. We need to do better,” said Sánchez.