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Governor blasts proposal to cut prison aid

Gov. Janet Napolitano blasted proposed cuts to the federal program that helps states pay for imprisoned illegal immigrants in a letter to congressional leaders.

The Commerce Justice and Science Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee voted this week to cut funding for the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program, or SCAAP, for fiscal year 2008.

“Border states like Arizona are reimbursed only pennies on the dollars we spend incarcerating criminal aliens,” Napolitano wrote in the letter. SCAAP requires that the federal government take custody of illegal immigrants that commit crimes or reimburse states for the cost of incarceration.

Since 2004, the governor has sent invoices to the Justice Department for the costs to Arizona of housing criminal illegal immigrants in state prisons. The latest invoice, sent in February, 2007, was for more than $327 million and covered fiscal 2003-2006 and a portion of 2007.

Through early February, 2007, the state had received only $18.9 million, according to the Governor’s Office.

U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., is working with the governor to fight the cuts.

“The Tucson sector is the most porous area along the U.S.-Mexico border,” Giffords said in a press release.

“As a result, our state and local law enforcement officials are burdened with related violence, human and drug smuggling and criminal activity every day. This is an unfunded mandate and the federal government must reimburse these agencies at the highest level possible.”

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