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Monday, April 25, 2011

California Leads the Nation in Imprisoning Criminal Immigrants

Posted By on Mon, Apr 25, 2011 at 2:50 PM

click to enlarge 10 percent of California's inmates are non-citizens.
  • 10 percent of California's inmates are non-citizens.

It's not a winning spot to brag about, but the Golden State is No.1 when it comes to incarcerating criminal immigrants. In fact, California is the only state to break the 100,000 mark.

What's worse: The state is shouldering the majority of the cost to keep them in prison. 

The statistics were gleaned from the Government

Accountability Office's report, which analyzes the cost of incarcerating

criminal aliens. The report was drawn up for Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-California)

and Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa.)

Before we go on, let's be clear: "criminal aliens" is a term of art used by the Department of Homeland Security, meaning the person is not a U.S. citizen. But the term refers to both noncitizens who are here legally with a green card as well as illegal immigrants.

Here's one fact that might surprise you: Arrests of noncitizens are increasing under President Barack Obama's watch. From 2007 to 2010, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement ramped up its enforcement, arrests, and deportation of illegal

immigrants -- and it shows. Arrests increased 85 percent, removal proceedings increased

by 71 percent, and deportations ordered increased sevenfold -- from 9,000

in 2007 to 79,000 in 2010.

The feds shoulder 100 percent of the costs to incarcerate aliens in federal prisons. But they

also partially reimburse state and local prisons for

incarcerating eligible noncitizens through the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP). To be

eligible, the criminal aliens must be incarcerated for at least four

consecutive days, and have had at least one felony or two misdemeanor

convictions for violations of local or state law. Furthermore, they have

to have entered the country illegally, been in deportation proceedings

at the time of incarceration, or failed to comply with the conditions of

their immigration status.

"Therefore, SCAAP

is not intended to reimburse state and local governments for all of the

costs associated with incarcerating all criminal aliens," the report's authors write in a letter to the two politicians.

We'll say.

In California, criminal aliens comprise roughly 10 percent of the total number of days in which inmates are incarcerated -- costing $1.1 billion annually. Yet it receives very little reimbursement from the feds when it comes to housing alien inmates. In fiscal year 2009, California spent the most of all five states listed in the report

to incarcerate an alien inmate for the year --  $34,500. Yet the feds only repaid $2,775 of that.

So doing some quick math: In fiscal year 2009, while California spent a total of

$298 million incarcerating illegal aliens who were eligible for

federal reimbursement, the feds pitched in only $88 million.

And you can guess who is paying the balance -- taxpayers.

Here's the graph to

illustrate that. California is second from the left. The aqua bar is

what the state is spending on inmates who are eligible for federal funds, and the royal blue bar shows what the feds are actually paying.


Some facts on the inmate population: In the random sample of 1,000

criminal aliens nationwide showed, on average, they had seven arrests and were charged with 12 offenses. In California, about

half of all of them were convicted of drug crimes, assault, or sex


Here's the breakdown:


Out of all the incarcerated criminal aliens

nationwide, the vast majority -- or 68 percent -- are from Mexico,

followed by Colombia and the Dominican Republic.

All graphs by Government Accountability Office

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Lauren Smiley


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