California Leads the Nation in Imprisoning Criminal Immigrants
|10 percent of California's inmates are non-citizens.|
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.
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 offenses.
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