Obama Admin to yank state’s $3 million immigrant detention subsidy

Colorado is set to lose approximately $3 million in federal funds that are used to cover the costs of detaining undocumented immigrants in the state, according to current budget documents released this month.

The Obama Administration is moving forward with plans to eliminate the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program, a federal plan that provides a partial subsidy to local jails and state prisons for the cost of incarcerating inmates who happen to be undocumented. The termination of the program is planned for the 2010 fiscal year.

Documents from the Department of Justice show Colorado netted $3.1 million from the program last year, and $3.3 million in 2007.

The elimination of the $400 million federal program is not good news for Colorado, where state lawmakers toiled during this year’s legislative session to fix a $1.4 billion two-year budget shortfall.

While the Obama White House says that it recognizes “the financial burden that the current immigration system places on states and localities,” those resources “can be better used to enhance federal enforcement efforts.”

The termination of the program is not a new idea. The Bush Administration tried to end the program multiple times only to be thwarted by protests from state and local law enforcement officials who convinced Congress to restore the funding.

A last gasp effort to lobby the congressional budget reconciliation committee could yet again bail out the states from the unforeseen expense for a federal immigration law mandate to jail undocumented people.

Stay tuned.

Erin Rosa was born in Spain and raised in Colorado Springs. She is a freelance writer currently living in Denver. Rosa's work has been featured in a variety of news outlets including the Huffington Post, Democracy Now!, and the Rocky Mountain Chronicle, an alternative-weekly in Northern Colorado where she worked as a columnist covering the state legislature. Rosa has received awards from the Society of Professional Journalists for her reporting on lobbying and woman's health issues. She was also tapped with a rare honorable mention award by the Newspaper Guild-CWA's David S. Barr Award in 2008--only the second such honor conferred in its nine-year history--for her investigative series covering the federal government's Supermax prison in the state. Rosa covers the labor community, corrections, immigration and government transparency matters. She can be reached at erosa@www.coloradoindependent.com.