Senator Feinstein Introduces Legislation to Increase Reimbursements to State and Local Governments for Costs of Incarcerating Criminal Aliens
-Feinstein measures would require increased reimbursements by the Justice Department-
Feb 01 2008
Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) has introduced two pieces of legislation to ensure that the Justice Department fully reimburses states and localities for the costs of incarcerating illegal aliens, and that these payments are made in a timely fashion.
- The SCAAP Reimbursement Protection Act of 2008 would require the Justice Department to reimburse states and localities for the costs of incarcerating 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 aliens.
- The Ensure Timely SCAAP Reimbursement Act would require the Justice Department to make timely reimbursement payments to state and local governments.
“Illegal immigration is a federal responsibility, but the federal government is not meeting its responsibility to pay for the costs of incarcerating criminal aliens – and state and local governments suffer as a result,” Senator Feinstein said.
“California has been especially hard hit. In FY 2007, the California Department of Corrections spent more than $912.5 million to house criminal aliens. But the Justice Department reimbursed only $109.5 million, meaning California had to pay $803 million of its own money to house these criminal aliens.”
“These bills will amend SCAAP to ensure that states and localities receive more funding for the costs associated with incarcerating criminal aliens, and that these payments are made in a timely manner.”
Following is a summary of Senator Feinstein’s legislation:
- SCAAP Reimbursement Protection Act of 2008 -- Would restore SCAAP to Congress’ original intent to ensure that states and localities be reimbursed for the costs of incarcerating aliens who are either charged with, or convicted of, a felony or two misdemeanors. The House Judiciary Committee unanimously passed the House version of this bill (HR 1512) on October 26, 2007;
- Ensure Timely SCAAP Reimbursement Act – Would shorten the time states and localities have to wait for reimbursement from the federal government. Would require reimbursement within 120 days of the application deadline. (The House companion is HR 3836.)
The legislation is co-sponsored by Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), Larry Craig (R-Idaho), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Pete Domenici (R-N.M.), and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho).
The State Criminal Alien Assistance Act (SCAAP) was passed by Congress in 1994 to help reimburse states and localities for the costs of arresting, incarcerating and transporting criminal aliens. It specifically required reimbursements for incarcerating aliens charged with – or convicted of – one felony or two misdemeanors.
Under a 2003 reinterpretation of the statute by the Justice Department, states are reimbursed only for what they spend incarcerating convicted criminal aliens, and only when the arrest and conviction occur in the same year. This reinterpretation significantly cut the amount states and local governments were eligible to be reimbursed.
In addition, Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Riverside counties had to wait two years before receiving reimbursements, totaling $85.9 million, for holding criminal aliens between July 2004 and June 2005. Because of this delay, public safety offices had to cut back on critical services.
In addition, SCAAP has consistently been under-funded by the President, who has sought to zero-out the program’s funding in his budget proposal for the past six years. Congress has been able to partially fund the program. The FY 2008 Omnibus Appropriations Bill, signed by the President on December 26, included $410 million in SCAAP funding, an $11 million increase over FY 2007.