GOVERNOR ASKS FEDS TO TAKE ILLEGAL IMMIGRANT INMATES
Federal Government Owes Arizona at Least $71 Million
In a letter to newly confirmed U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Governor Janet Napolitano has asked the federal government to pay Arizona what it is owed for incarceration of inmates - the "criminal aliens" - who are housed in Arizona's prison system.
These are inmates who arrived in the country illegally, then committed a crime in Arizona. Under federal law (State Criminal Alien Assistance Program or SCAAP), those inmates should be held in federal prisons, or the state must be reimbursed the cost of keeping them in state prisons.
The average daily cost of holding an inmate in an Arizona prison in 2004 was approximately $53.44 per day; during that same year, the state housed an average daily population of 3,642 illegal immigrant inmates. Arizona is entitled to federal reimbursement of $71 million dollars for that period; yet the state was actually only paid $6.8 million - a total of $64 million less than the actual costs of housing the inmates.
"This is just wrong," said Governor Napolitano. "Arizona has held up its end of the bargain, and has taken these criminals off the streets. Yet, the federal government has abandoned its job by refusing to pay for them."
"Arizonans already pay a high price for illegal immigration. I'm demanding that the federal government live up to its obligations and stop pushing the burden onto the taxpayers of Arizona."
With her letter, the Governor also sent two invoices. The first is for $40,602,376.00 - the amount due to the state for holding SCAAP inmates between July 1 and December 31, 2004. The second bills $77.3 million for inmates held between July 1, 2003 and June 30, 2004.
Governor Napolitano sent a first letter regarding SCAAP to U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft on October 21, 2004. Although there was a response, it did not sufficiently address the issue.
In this new recent letter, the Governor writes, "If you cannot, or will not, pay these costs, then I hereby make formal demand that the federal government take custody of the undocumented criminal aliens in our state prisons and incarcerate them. Please note that, among other things, we will continue to submit invoices to your office until this matter is satisfactorily resolved."
The letter asks for a response by February 24, 2005.