Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano wants the federal government to pay almost $118 million for keeping thousands of undocumented immigrants behind bars over the past 18 months, the Arizona Republic reports. Napolitano has sent U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales two detailed invoices demanding payment by Feb. 25. She is not likely to be paid, because the Bush administration wants to end the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP), which was created in 1995 by Congress to reimburse local and county governments nationwide for costs associated with jailing immigrants who committed crimes after illegally entering the country.
The federal government doesn’t have enough federal detention space to house undocumented immigrants who have committed crimes and are awaiting deportation. Last year, states and other jurisdictions shared $281 million in SCAAP funds. Napolitano said the state pays $53.44 per day to house undocumented criminal immigrants, but gets back $17.12, forcing Arizona taxpayers to make up the difference. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz. have proposed to pump at least $5.4 billion into the program, keeping it alive until 2011. Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Phoenix said it is unfair for the federal government to force local governments to bear the brunt of the costs of jailing criminal undocumented immigrants. He said 20 percent of the 9,100 inmates behind bars in Maricopa County are non-citizens, with 470 of them undocumented immigrants ordered held by immigration officials.