Press Releases

Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today urged the Departments of Homeland Security and Justice to work together to immediately reimburse California $85.9 million in overdue payments for the cost of housing criminal illegal immigrants from 2005. 

The State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP) provides federal payments to states and localities that incurred correctional officer salary costs for incarcerating undocumented criminal aliens with at least one felony or two misdemeanor convictions for violations of state or local law, and incarcerated for at least four consecutive days during the reporting period.

The $85.9 million includes overdue payments to several California counties, including:

  • $12.5 million for Los Angeles County;
  • $1.2 million for Riverside County; and
  • $407,580 for San Bernardino County.

California has an estimated 2.5 million undocumented people living in the state.  California also has the largest criminal alien population in the country and so California bears the brunt of housing these criminal aliens.

The percentage of deportable criminal aliens in the California State prison system is 11.8 percent of the total inmate population of approximately 172,000.

The cost to house an inmate in the California State prison system is $35,212 per year.  It costs California over $715 million per year to house approximately 20,296 deportable criminal alien inmates.

The Senate recently unanimously approved an amendment offered by Senators Feinstein and Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) to fully fund SCAAP funding in FY’08. Specifically, the amendment increases the budget allocation for the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP) to its fully authorized level of $950 million.  The President’s FY’08 budget had zeroed out funding, and the Senate Budget Resolution previously included only $407 million, less than half of the authorized amount.

The following is the text of the letter sent by Senator Feinstein to Attorney General Gonzales and DHS Secretary Chertoff:

April 30, 2007

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20530

Secretary Michael Chertoff
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Nebraska Avenue Center, NW
Washington, DC 20528

Dear Attorney General Gonzales and Secretary Chertoff:

 I was disappointed to learn that the Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs has not yet reimbursed states for expenses claimed as part of the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP) for 2005. California is still waiting for the disbursement of $85.9 million, with Los Angeles County expecting to receive $12.5 million, Riverside County waiting for $1.2 million and San Bernardino County for $407,580.

 As you know, SCAAP is a vital program to the States and localities to reimburse them for the costs associated with housing undocumented criminal aliens. In my home State of California, there are currently over 20,000 criminal alien inmates. It costs California over $715 million per year to house these aliens. The money claimed by California under this program is only a fraction of the total amount spent each year by the state, but it is vitally important to the State. This delay imposes a significant burden on California, which spent this money as long as two years ago.

My understanding is that the money has not yet been disbursed because of delays at the Department of Homeland Security in processing the applications from the States. Because I believe that control of immigration is ultimately a federal responsibility, this delay is unacceptable. I trust that the Departments will work together to process the applications and reimburse the states as soon as possible.

I appreciate your consideration of my inquiry and I look forward to your imminent disbursement of these long overdue payments.

Best regards.

Sincerely yours,

Dianne Feinstein
United States Senator