Athens Review, Athens, Texas

March 13, 2014

Undocumented immigrants costs jails large amounts

Rich Flowers
The Athens Review

Athens — Changes in the way the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency deals with detainees has altered the number housed in local jails.

ICE is the principal criminal-investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security and one of the three department components charged with the civil enforcement of the nation’s immigration laws. For the last five years, the stated aim of ICE has been to “recognize the value of enforcing removal orders without detaining people,” and develop cost-effective alternatives to its previous detention program.”

The Texas Tribune reports that the Texas Commission on Jail Standards records show county jails in the state spending more than $187 million while housing 155,380 undocumented immigrants between October 2011 and January 2014. The Henderson County Jail housed 189 illegal immigrants during that period for a total of 3,803 days.  The total cost of keeping the detainees in the Henderson County facility was $209,849.54.

Henderson County began the period with 14 illegals in the jail.  The cost for keeping that number of detainees in Oct. 2011 was about $7,900. The county also reported 14 in November of 2012. That dropped to 10 in January 2013, dropped to two by April and none in July, August and September. In January 2014, the county reported six illegal immigrants in the jail at a cost of $4,830.

Henderson County ranked 70th among the state’s 254 counties in the number of illegal immigrants kept during the period. Navarro County was No. 50 and Kaufman County No. 43.

Dallas County ranked 2nd, behind Harris County in housing detainees, with 15,525. While the cost of holding the detainees decreased by 60 percent in Henderson County between 2012 and 2013, Dallas County experienced an increase of 16.76 percent.

In the past, several counties have received funds to help offset the cost of housing illegal immigrants.

In 2009, Henderson County received a Fiscal Year 2009 State Criminal Alien Assistance Program grant in the amount of $53,323. 

The amount was allocated through the U.S. Bureau of Justice Assistance, and is based on the number of illegal aliens housed in the jail. In 2013, the amount had dropped to 13,452.

The total was based on 29 ICE inmates, serving 1,497 days.

To be eligible to be counted on the grant application, the inmate must have been born outside the U.S. or one of its territories, and had no reported or documented claim to U.S. citizenship, in the applicant’s custody for four or more consecutive days during the reporting period, and convicted of a felony or second misdemeanor for violations of state or local law.