The next time a San Diego sheriff’s deputy arrests a man who tries to steal a car, hauls him to a county detention center, and discovers he’s in the country illegally, says Copley News Service, the district attorney’s and public defender’s offices will handle his case, a tax-supported judge will preside if it goes to trial, he’ll spend an average three weeks in the local jail at $100 each day, a state prison could house him for years at $121 a day, and tax-funded probation officers will follow his progress. Only after that will he be deported.
For years, the White House and border communities such as San Diego have argued over who should pay for all this. As a group of border states yesterday unveiled a report on the costs of incarcerating illegal immigrants linked to crimes, President Bush is trying to eliminate all federal reimbursement for the task. The recurring battle over this reimbursement – known in Washington as the “State Criminal Alien Assistance Program,” or SCAAP – has a predictable rhythm: For six years, the Republican president has axed the money from his budget plan, lawmakers from border states have howled, and budget writers have held press conferences, hearings and behind-door talks to put some money back in.