The omnibus spending bill that just passed the U.S. Congress slashes the budget of a program that pays to incarcerate illegal aliens who have committed crimes in the United States, the Arizona Republic reports.
“A massive 2014 federal spending bill passed this week by Congress would cut nearly $60 million–or about 25 percent–from a federal program that reimburses states and local governments for the cost of incarcerating undocumented immigrants convicted of crimes,” the Arizona Republic‘s Erin Kelly wrote. “Local and state taxpayers will have to pick up a bigger share of the tab as Congress moves to reduce the annual funding of the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP) from $238 million to $180 million in 2014.”
The spending bill Kelly referenced is the omnibus bill from House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY) and Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD). That omnibus bill is the second part of the budget deal cut by House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), which passed and was signed into law by President Obama before the end of 2013. The Ryan-Murray deal set up the Rogers-Mikulski bill, as the Ryan-Murray deal put into law general outlines for spending in the 2014 fiscal year, while the Rogers-Mikulski bill specifies funding pursuant to that outline for individual programs and agencies.
As Kelly noted, these specific cuts to the program that pays to jail illegal aliens who commit crimes would affect Arizona, California, Florida, New Jersey, New York, and Texas more than other states because they “have high numbers of undocumented immigrant criminals serving time in state prisons and county jails.”
“SCAAP reimburses states and local governments for the cost of incarcerating undocumented immigrants who have been convicted of felonies or at least two misdemeanor offenses and have been jailed for a minimum of four consecutive days,” Kelly wrote.
Even pro-amnesty lawmakers from both the Democratic Party and the GOP support increasing funding to SCAAP instead of decreasing it. Kelly noted that when the Senate “Gang of Eight” amnesty bill passed the Senate last summer, it included an amendment from Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) that actually increased funding to SCAAP. Gang of Eight GOP member Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) supported that amendment.
Flake even made a statement at the time praising the program: “SCAAP is an important tool to border states like Arizona that have borne the brunt of the federal government’s failure to secure the border,” he said.
The cutting of this program is hardly the only item in the budget deal that has outraged conservatives. The deal cuts the pensions for over 90 percent of American veterans, and proposals to restore veterans’ pensions by cutting off illegal aliens’ access to tax credit loopholes were blocked. Currently, illegal aliens can illicitly access the Refundable Child Tax Credit in a manner inconsistent with federal law.
Some have suspected this budget fight is a front for the coming amnesty fight, as House GOP leadership officials announced they are drafting immigration “principles” at this time. Through these deals, Boehner has tested–and beaten–conservative groups and the conservative bloc of the House conference; a little over 60 House Republicans voted against both the budget deal in December and the omnibus deal in January.
Additionally, the cuts to the SCAAP program could eventually be rectified in a House immigration reform package like the one Ryan and Goodlatte are crafting with Boehner and Cantor. As Kelly noted, the Senate-passed bill contained the Feinstein amendment that increased SCAAP funding.
“The House has not yet taken up the issue, but Republican leaders plan to announce guidelines for immigration reform legislation this month,” Kelly wrote.
Kelly quoted Matt Chase, the executive director of the National Association of Counties, saying that a House immigration reform package may help increase SCAAP funding. “If immigration reform ever gets back on track, we might get some relief,” Chase reportedly said.
However, leaders could pass a standalone bill that fixes the problem outright, or they could add an amendment to any other forthcoming legislative packages dealing with other issues. There is no need to pass an immigration legislative package to restore SCAAP funding.