Press Releases

Senator Feinstein Introduces Legislation to Assist State and Local Governments With Costs of Incarcerating Criminal Aliens

- Feinstein measure would require increased reimbursements by the Justice Department -

Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) has introduced legislation to ensure that that states and localities are eligible for reimbursement of the costs associated with incarcerating undocumented criminal aliens. 

“It is the federal government’s responsibility to control immigration. The cuts to the SCAAP program have let our local public safety services down, and have made our communities less safe,” Senator Feinstein said. “The cost of incarcerating criminal aliens in jails and prisons is high and the SCAAP program puts a significant financial burden on states. This legislation will ensure that the federal government no longer shirks its duty.”

The SCAAP (State Criminal Alien Assistance Program) Reimbursement Protection Act of 2009 (S.168) would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act and requires the Justice Department to reimburse states and localities for the costs of incarcerating criminal aliens either charged with, or convicted of, one felony or two misdemeanors. Since 2003 the Justice Department has reimbursed only for the costs of incarcerating convicted criminal aliens.

The legislation is co-sponsored by Senator Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), Arlen Specter (R-PA), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.),), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho).

Background

The State Criminal Alien Assistance Program was enacted by Congress as part of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 and was set up to reimburse states and localities for the costs incurred from the incarceration of undocumented criminal aliens.

Under a 2003 reinterpretation of the statute by the Justice Department, states are reimbursed only for what they spend incarcerating convicted criminal aliens for at least four consecutive days. This reinterpretation significantly cut the amount states and local governments were eligible to be reimbursed.

SCAAP has consistently been underfunded by President Bush, who sought to zero out the program’s funding in his budget proposals over the past seven years. Congress has been able to partially fund the program with bipartisan support.  In FY 2008, California was only reimbursed for approximately 12 percent of its costs to incarcerate illegal criminal aliens.

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