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Report: Colorado Taxpayers Have Spent $500M To Detain Illegal Immigrants

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Will Racke Immigration and Foreign Policy Reporter
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Colorado taxpayers have shelled out more than half a billion dollars over the past 20 years to imprison illegal immigrants convicted of crimes, according to a new report from CBS4 Denver.

The state has spent $522 million — about $25 million annually — to house criminal aliens in state, county and municipal jails since 1997.

The figure comes from a Colorado Department of Corrections analysis of its applications to the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP), a federal grant program designed to reimburse states for the burden of incarcerating illegal aliens. To receive SCAAP funds, state prisons and county jails provide the Department of Justice with a list of names of illegal immigrants and the number of days they’ve been incarcerated

The problem for Colorado is that federal reimbursement covers just a tiny fraction of the cost accrued by holding illegal immigrants. SCAAP grants have paid for about 4 percent of the state’s total expenses for detaining criminal aliens over the last 20 years, reports CBS4.

“When we say immigration is only a federal problem, it’s not,” Colorado State Sen. Kent Lambert told CBS4. “We don’t want people to forget that a lot of the impacts are also on the states because the federal government is not reimbursing us for the cost of this incarceration.”

Colorado spent $60 million in 2015 to house approximately 2,000 illegal immigrants in the state prison system, according to department of corrections SCAAP applications. The next year, the Department of Justice awarded Colorado $3.47 million in SCAAP grants — 5.8 percent of the total cost of incarceration.

The criminal alien population in Colorado’s state prison system has grown steadily since 1995, reports the Colorado Statesman. That year, the state tallied just 423 eligible criminal alien inmate, but the number swelled to 2,039 by the end of 2016.

Illegal immigrants made up 7.8 percent of Colorado’s prison population, but that figure does not include criminal aliens detained in county or local jails, according to CBS4.

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