Budget tight local police departments cooperate with U.S. federal government for funds

09:45, July 27, 2010      

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Budget tight local police departments in the United States have changed their position to cooperate with the federal government in either providing jails for federal detainees or enforcing federal immigration laws in exchange for federal funds.

Usually state and county or city jails won't take detainees who have committed federal crimes and local law enforcement agencies won't enforce federal laws, especially immigration laws.

Local police usually won't arrest people who have no legal immigration status. They would never check the immigration status of those who have been arrested for other crimes on the ground that if local police departments enforce immigration law, illegal immigrants would become targets of crimes and they would be reluctant to report any crimes or cooperate with police in stopping any crimes for fear they would be deported.

But things begin to change.

Supervisors from Orange County in Southern California adopted a resolution last week to authorize the federal government to use the two jails in the county to detain illegal immigrants.

The two jails in Irvine and Orange can hold 838 detainees. Right now only the jail in Santa Ana accepts illegal immigrants. By allowing the three county jails to detain illegal immigrants, the county would get 35 million dollars from the federal government annually.

In the east, the sheriff's offices in Butler County, Delaware and Seneca counties also rent beds to ICE to house immigrants awaiting deportation. That revenue is being used to maintain staffing levels, complete expansion projects and offset the cost of jailing local prisoners.

Delaware County will use the money from holding detainees to complete the unfinished second story of the jail.

The number of ICE detainees in the Butler County jail fluctuates, as does the duration of their stays. But the jail holds roughly 200 ICE detainees a day. The financial benefit to the Seneca County jail is a matter of economies of scale.

Because the county is reimbursed for the federal detainees in its jail population, it costs less to house the local prisoners.

It is estimated that the savings to local taxpayers is roughly three-quarters of a million dollars a year, which is important in tough economic times.

Last year, the Butler County sheriff's office billed ICE about 3.2 million dollars to house and transport detainees. Seneca County charged ICE about 2.1 million dollars.

To cooperate with the federal government is another source to make money.

In March this year, Sonoma County in Northern California became the first in the Bay Area in which anyone booked into the county jail automatically will have their immigration status checked.

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