Immigration Reform Bill Includes Cantwell's Measure to Help Border Communities Cover Costs of Prosecuting Federal Border Crimes
Local border communities spending own millions to prosecute federal border crimes at no cost to federal government
Monday, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) applauded the Senate's decision to consider her legislation to help border communities cover the cost of prosecuting and detaining individuals suspected of border crimes. The bill is part of a broader immigration package under consideration on the Senate floor this week.
"The high costs of prosecuting criminals who commit federal border crimes are weighing down small communities along our northern border," said Cantwell, a member of the Northern Border Coalition. "The feds are forcing hundreds of criminal cases on these counties each year and sticking them with the bill. America's northern border communities play a vital role in keeping our entire country secure. They need these resources and support to continue doing the job well and keep our communities safe."
Cantwell's Northern Border Prosecution Initiative Reimbursement Act, which she introduced first on May 8, 2003 and again last November, is included in the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act, currently under consideration in the Senate.
Modeled on an existing program for the southern border, Cantwell's bill would authorize almost $30 million annually to reimburse border communities for the cost of prosecuting cases, detaining suspects, and constructing holding spaces. Specifically, reimbursements would cover investigations and arrests initiated by federal law enforcement officers, as well as any case involving a violation of federal law referred to state or local authorities for prosecution.
For example, in 2004 Washington state's Whatcom County was forced to prosecute more than 85 percent of the criminal apprehensions made by federal law enforcement officers at or near the border, costing the county more than $2.5 million.
Cantwell's legislation has been cosponsored by 11 other senators from northern border states, including Senators Larry Craig (R-ID), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Patty Murray (D-WA), Carl Levin (D-MI), James Jeffords (I-VT), Mike DeWine (R-OH), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Mark Dayton (D-MN), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Hillary Clinton (D-NY), and Max Baucus (D-MT).