President Obama is picking a fight with states over funding for the costs of imprisoning illegal aliens, says Politico.com. The new White House budget plan would zero out the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program, under which states got $400 million in the current fiscal year to cover the costs of housing convicts and pre-trial detainees who are illegally in the U.S. “The evidence suggests that the funds are often used in a variety of ways that are tangential to the direct cost associated with imprisoning unauthorized immigrants,” Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag said.
The administration called the program “an unfocused block grant” and asserted that money in the program “can be used for extraneous items and services such as bonuses, consultants, and purchase of vehicles.” The costs of keeping illegal aliens in custody is clearly higher than what the federal government pays. California is getting $118 million through the program this year, but estimates it spends about $1 billion on jailing “undocumented persons.” Justice Department officials say the real issue is not that the states are misspending the money, but that the federal government wants to spend it directly instead on new initiatives to secure the border with Mexico. But those total about $232 million. So some of the alien-jail money is just being shifted away. As has happened in previous years, Congress is likely to put some of the money back in the budget, whether the administration likes it or not.