GAO Updates Cost of Criminal Aliens

By Jessica M. Vaughan on April 23, 2011

The incarceration of criminal aliens cost the federal government more than $1.6 billion in 2009, according to a new GAO report. In addition, taxpayers shelled out tens of millions more that year to incarcerate aliens in state prisons and local jails.

Other findings:

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  • About 25 percent of the federal prison population in 2010 was comprised of foreign nationals. They numbered 55,000. Their numbers are growing, although slightly more slowly than the overall federal prison population.

  • State and local correctional systems that applied for payments under the federal SCAAP program in 2009 reported 296,000 illegal aliens who were jailed at least four days for a felony or two misdemeanors.

  • The average incarcerated alien had seven arrests, and committed an average of 12 offenses.

  • Twenty-five percent of the aliens had 16 or more offenses. Nine percent had just one arrest.

  • ICE is finding and removing more criminal aliens each year. The number ordered removed has gone up from 7,000 in 2007 to 79,000 in 2010.

  • The number of criminal aliens who were removed and then later re-apprehended for illegal re-entry declined by 35 percent from 2009 to 2010, a reversal from the trend of the last few years.

  • Of the total 2009 federal expenses related to criminal aliens of $1.6 billion, about $1.3 billion was for the incarceration of aliens in the federal Bureau of Prisons system. Another $323 million went for payments to states and localities as partial reimbursement for their costs. This cost includes millions of dollars in payments to sanctuary jurisdictions (See "Subsidizing Sanctuaries").

  • States and localities are incurring significant additional costs to incarcerate illegal aliens, since the SCAAP payments cover only a small fraction of the total cost. The report said that Texas spends about $12,000 per illegal alien inmate per year, and California spends about $34,000 per illegal alien inmate per year.

  • California taxpayers spent about $1.1 billion to incarcerate illegal aliens in 2009.

  • In 2009, Los Angeles County spent $139 million jailing illegal aliens. New York City spent $88 million; Orange County, Calif., spent $74 million, Maricopa County, Ariz., spent $42 million, and Harris County, Texas, spent $30 million.

The report also includes information on the number of incarcerated illegal aliens by state, the nationalities of the alien offenders, and the types of crimes they committed.