The Bureau of Justice Affairs announced in a report released in October 2013 that 894 jurisdictions in the U.S. received 213 million dollars in reimbursement payments for corrections costs related to the incarceration of undocumented criminal aliens. The money came from a grant program administered by the Bureau of Justice Affairs, an agency within the Department of Justice, known as the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program, or SCAAP. State corrections agencies receive an award from the Department of Justice, while county agencies that apply for the grant benefit from their own individual awards.
The State of Florida was awarded 8.6 million dollars. In addition, 41 Florida counties received over 3 million dollars. The top three recipients in Florida were Palm Beach County, with an award of $525,344, Hillsborough County, which obtained $376,007, and Collier County, which received $331,166 in funding. This indicates the Florida’s approximate 11 million dollar award amounted to about 6% of the 213 million dollars awarded nationally. Nearly one-third of Florida’s 67 counties received no funding.
The State of California and numerous counties within that State received over one-third of the funding awarded, around 72.5 million dollars. Los Angeles and Orange counties alone secured a combined total of 8 million dollars for reporting undocumented criminal aliens.
According to the Bureau of Justice Affairs website, the Department of Justice reimburses those corrections institutions under the SCAAP initiative that report detaining undocumented criminal aliens for a period of four or more days. Officials attempt to confirm the inmate’s unlawful status through the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). A positive DHS confirmation places the inmate into the “known” category. A separate designation exists for “unknown” criminal aliens, meaning the inmate’s undocumented status is not confirmed, typically because no DHS record exists. The presumption is that these individuals entered the U.S. illegally and either avoided capture by immigration agents or never applied for lawful status. In other words, no record exists because no immigration official ever had the opportunity to create one.
The Bureau of Justice Affairs guideline recommends that agencies use one of three verification mechanisms. Secure Communities, through which fingerprints of booked inmates are compared to computerized records in the FBI criminal history database as well as DHS immigration records. In addition, state and local officers authorized to enforce immigration laws under the 287g Program can legally verify the person’s status. Lastly, the DHS Law Enforcement Support Center provides real-time assistance to law enforcement officers seeking to verify a suspect’s immigration status.
The BJA guidelines require that jurisdictions seeking reimbursement meet four criteria regarding each criminal alien inmate. First, the inmate must be a foreign national. Second, the inmate’s detention must exceed three days. Third, corrections officials must identify and report the inmate as an undocumented alien. Finally, the inmate must have a conviction for a felony or at minimum a second-degree misdemeanor for violations of state law. DOJ does make exceptions in certain situations that facilitate reimbursement of jail expenses for pretrial detentions.
To qualify as undocumented, the inmate must be a person who entered the U.S. without inspection by an immigration officer. Also included in the undocumented definition are persons currently in deportation proceedings at the time of arrest and nonimmigrant aliens who records indicated they were in violation of the conditions of their nonimmigrant status at the time of arrest.