Senate panel OKs funds for imprisoning illegal immigrants

Compensation for state and local governments may be continued, despite Obama's call to end such payments. California could receive less money than last year.

June 26, 2009|Richard Simon

WASHINGTON — Congress appeared poised Thursday to continue compensating state and local governments for incarcerating illegal immigrants convicted of crimes, ignoring President Obama's call to eliminate such payments.

That would spare strapped California from another hit on its budget.

The Senate Appropriations Committee voted to provide $228 million nationwide next year, acting a week after the House voted to allocate $400 million, the same as this year.

Once the full Senate acts, negotiators from both chambers will meet to reconcile their differences.

California, which receives about 40% of the money, still could end up with less than it received this year.

"That's better than nothing," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.).

The funds are included in the annual bill funding the Justice and Commerce departments and science programs.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will try to persuade congressional negotiators to provide the full $400 million, said H.D. Palmer, spokesman for the California Department of Finance.

But Palmer said the governor still wanted to turn over some of the 19,000 illegal immigrants in state prisons to federal authorities for deportation to help close the state's budget gap.

California receives only a fraction of the nearly $1 billion it expects to spend imprisoning illegal immigrants this year. Los Angeles County alone spends about $100 million.

Officials from border states argue that taxpayers should not have to bear the burden of Washington's failure to control the border.


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