Proposed Immigration Reform and Costs to States

Source: JC Hendrickson, Council of State Governments, Knowledge Center, April 3, 2013

…According to the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance, the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program “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 4 consecutive days during the reporting period.” In other words, because states incur much of the cost of arresting, detaining and processing foreign citizens, the assistance program is how the federal government reimburses states for carrying the burden.

The problem is that the federal government does not pay the full tab. States have faced a 27 percent cut in federal reimbursement since 2010, according to the National Criminal Justice Association. In fact, the president proposed eliminating the program entirely in 2010, which angered lawmakers on Capitol Hill, who in turn continued to fund the program. Even with the restored funding, however, the federal government reimbursed only 18 percent of the costs of incarcerating criminal immigrants in the 2012 fiscal year.

Reimbursement for states is likely to get worse before it gets better. This year, the president has proposed cutting the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program to $70 million, while the House budget cuts the program to $155 million and the Senate budget increases funding to $255 million….