$1 million could be lost in Tucson
WASHINGTON — Members of Congress quickly denounced an Obama administration plan to end federal payments to states and communities for jailing illegal immigrants.
President Obama asked Congress in his budget Thursday to end the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program. Instead, the $400 million it received for the 2009 fiscal year could be used for border security and immigration enforcement, the administration said.
The SCAAP program reimburses states and counties for jailers’ salaries for holding illegal immigrants who have at least one felony and two misdemeanor convictions. But the Obama administration says the reimbursements also can be used for bonuses, consultants and buying vehicles.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said killing the program “deprives communities of critical funding for public safety services.” The California state corrections received more than $118 million in 2008 through the program.
“We cannot afford to let our public safety services crumble under the weight of our immigration policies, especially during this time of economic uncertainty,” Feinstein said.
State and local officials vehemently protested several attempts by former President George W. Bush to end the program. Congress regularly funded the program. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano was among state officials – when she was Arizona’s governor – who petitioned Bush to continue paying the jailing costs. Arizona state corrections received $12.8 million in reimbursements last year.
It will cost Pima County about $1 million in lost funding to the sheriff’s and county attorney’s departments.
“It’s just another federal obligation that gets passed on the the local taxpayers,” County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry said Thursday.
“It is especially difficult on border communities and border states,”he said. “It’s another million we’re going to have to find somewhere else.”