According to a new report from the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security, about 25 percent of the population in federal prisons are aliens. The report, however, does not account for alien inmates at state and local lockups, which account for approximately 90 percent of America’s incarcerated population. 

The report shows important facts from the first quarter of Fiscal Year 2018:

  • 57,820 known or suspected aliens were in federal custody.
  • Drug trafficking, not immigration violations, was the primary offense of aliens locked up by the Bureau of Prisons.
  • The U.S. Marshals Service spent more than $134 million to house known or suspected aliens during the quarter, but this does not include the much larger costs incurred by the federal Bureau of Prisons.
  • Clear breakdowns of resident and illegal aliens, as well as comparative data from prior years, are missing.

As of December 30, 2017, there were 38,132 known or suspected aliens were in the custody of the federal Bureau of Prisons (approximately 21 percent of the 183,058 total individuals in BOP custody on that date). More than half (62 percent) did not have lawful immigration status in the United States. The report noted: “Of those, 20,976 (55 percent of the total number of known or suspected aliens in BOP custody) had been ordered removed, and 2,850 (seven percent) were unlawfully present and in removal proceedings.”

The report said, “Approximately seven percent of the known or suspected aliens in BOP custody (2,484 individuals) were lawfully present and in removal proceedings, and 124 aliens (less than one percent) had received an immigration benefit or relief or protection from removal (see 

Quarterly reporting of the above facts were mandated by President Trump in an executive order, thus revealing the extent of the spending and numbers of incarcerated.

From a summary of the paper:

"This report includes data on known or suspected aliens under the custody of BOP or USMS, and limited data regarding immigration status of convicted aliens incarcerated in state prisons and local detention centers throughout the United States. Future reports will also provide information regarding immigration status of aliens incarcerated in state prisons and local detention centers.

Summary of Findings

"A total of 57,820 known or suspected aliens were in DOJ custody for a range of offenses at the end of the first quarter of Fiscal Year 2018 (FY18). Of those, 34,834 were confirmed aliens with orders of removal, 15,536 were still under investigation by ICE to determine alienage, 4,410 were aliens who were illegally present and undergoing removal proceedings, and 2,871 were legally present and undergoing removal proceedings. A total of 169 aliens in DOJ custody had been granted relief or protection from removal."

A perennial problem

The number of criminal aliens in custody of federal, state and local authorities has been a perennial problem and one that taxpayers have been compelled to fund in the billions of dollars. A 2005 report by the federal General Accounting Office to Congress summarized its findings as follows:

• At the federal level, the number of criminal aliens incarcerated increased from about 42,000 at the end of calendar year 2001 to about 49,000 at the end of calendar year 2004—a 15 percent increase. At that time, the majority of criminal aliens incarcerated at the end of 2--4 were Mexican nationals. BOP’s cost to incarcerate criminals and reimbursements to state and local governments under SCAAP [federally-funded State Criminal Alien Assistance Program]—totaled approximately $5.8 billion for calendar years 2001 through 2004, while its cost to incarcerate criminal aliens rose from about $950 million in 2001 to about $1.2 billion in 2004—a 14 percent increase. “Federal reimbursements for incarcerating criminal aliens in state prisons and local jails declined from $550 million in 2001 to $280 million in 2004, in a large part due to a reduction in congressional appropriations.”

In fiscal year 2002, read the report, the 50 states received reimbursement for incarcerating about 77,000 criminal aliens, while 47 states received reimbursement for incarcerating about 74,000 in fiscal year 2003. Five states were identified as having incarcerated approximately 80 percent of these criminal aliens in fiscal year 2003, about 68 percent incarcerated in midyear 2004 reported that the country of citizenship or country of birth as Mexico, the Dominican Republic, or Cuba. The report estimated that 4 of these 5 states spent about $1.6 billion to incarcerate criminal aliens reimbursed through SCAAP during fiscal years 2002 and 2003.  We estimate that the federal government reimbursed these four states about 25 percent or less of the estimated cost to incarcerate these criminal aliens in fiscal years 2002 and 2003.

At the local level, in fiscal year 2002, SCAAP reimbursed about 750 local governments for incarcerating about 138,000 criminal aliens. In fiscal year 2003, SCAAP reimbursed about 700 local governments for about 147,000 criminal aliens, with 5 local jail systems accounting for about 30 percent of these criminal aliens. The GAO estimated in 2005 that 4 of the 5 local jails spent an estimated $390 million in fiscal years 2002 and 2003 to incarcerate criminal aliens and were reimbursed about $73 million through SCAAP.

“We estimate that the federal government reimbursed these localities about 25 percent or less of the estimated criminal alien incarceration cost in fiscal years 2002 and 2003."



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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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