- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 20, 2008


In his fiscal 2009 budget, President Bush has proposed eliminating the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program, which reimburses states for incarcerating illegal aliens who commit crimes. As America hardens its stance against illegal aliens, the program is yet another tool against sanctuary cities, and it promotes tighter border security.

The program offers states roughly 15 cents for every dollar spent on holding illegal residents who are found committing non-federal crimes. States receive payments for holding only those criminals who meet a narrow set of criteria; payments overwhelmingly go to states like California, New York, Texas and Florida, which are battling a troubling crush of illegal aliens.

White House budget officials say the program is not directly reducing crime and thus is “not demonstrating results.” The Office of Management and Budget also states the program is failing because it lacks clear goals. It is true that the program could benefit from reform, such as increased accountability measures to ensure proper disbursement of federal money and coordination with federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials to deport these criminals. However, as Jessica Vaughan, a senior policy analyst at the Center for Immigration Studies, told The Washington Times, the purpose of the program is clear: to help state and local government officials who are apprehending criminals who shouldn’t be here in the first place but remain in the United States due to failed federal policies.

The law creating this program was part of the 1994 Crime Act signed by President Clinton and has since received considerable support from Republicans. Rather than implementing useful and tangible changes to the law, the Bush White House and Congress continue their shell game: The president slashes funding and Congress restores it. President Bush has called for the termination of this program each year since fiscal 2003. And every year, members of Congress understand the crucial needs for this money, $410 million in fiscal 2008 and roughly that for the last several years.

“States and local governments have had to pick up the slack and are shouldered with these tremendous costs” said Scott Gerber, a spokesman for Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, who has spearheaded congressional efforts to ensure that state assistance funds are protected. “Controlling legal immigration is a federal responsibility.”

Indeed, the immigration policy debacle this summer showed the federal government’s failure to craft meaningful changes to reduce the flow of illegal aliens. While we agree this program in some ways presents an approach to illegal aliens that is defensive rather than proactive, it provides at least some compensation for states on the front lines of the battle against those who choose to flout our immigration laws and place a strain on our economy. Congress must continue to keep this reimbursement program in place to assist in their fight until tougher reforms are in place.

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