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Locals Win Big by Detaining Immigrants « The Washington Independent

Now I get it: after all those reports lately about how local law enforcement is increasingly relying on its powers under the federal 287(g) program to arrest and detain undocumented immigrants who haven’t actually committed crimes, we learn from The Los Angeles Times today that the federal money those localities get to jail these immigrants is actually helping them balance their budgets.

About two-thirds of immigrant detainees are held in local jails, The Times reports, and the federal government’s payments to cities and counties for holding them have steadily increased.

The feds paid nearly $55.2 million to house detainees at 13 local jails in California in fiscal year 2008, for example, up from $52.6 million the previous year. This year, the United States is expected to spend $57 million.

Smaller cities have seen far faster growth in their income from incarcerating immigrants. Glendale, Calif. received nearly $260,000 in 2008, according to The Times — triple what it got the previous year. And Alhambra, Calif.’s payment last year of $247,000 was more than double what the federal government paid it the previous year.

“For some cash-strapped cities, the federal money has become a critical source of revenue, covering budget shortfalls and saving positions,” writes reporter Anna Gorman of The Times.

I’ve been following the growing chorus of criticism of the federal government’s 287(g) program, which allows local law enforcement to assume the role of federal immigration authorities. But while law enforcement itself claims that the Department of Homeland Security doesn’t always cover the extra costs of arresting people for crimes like trespassing, we’re now learning that cities and states may have their own reasons for requiring local cops to go to all that extra trouble.

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