Rachel La Corte, AP, July 17, 2006
Olympia, Wash. — Gov. Chris Gregoire sent an invoice of nearly $50 million to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales on Monday, saying the federal government needs to reimburse the state for the cost of housing criminal illegal immigrants in state prisons.
Gregoire said that it’s the federal government’s responsibility to incarcerate illegal immigrants who have committed crimes, but that the state has been doing it for years. From July 2004 to June 2005, Gregoire said the state paid more than $27 million to house 995 prisoners. The U.S. Department of Justice has only reimbursed the state $1.7 million, and still owes $25.3 million.
She’s seeking an additional $24.4 million reimbursement for the months from July 2005 to this May.
Gregoire said that the states have been forced to pick up cuts in Medicaid and homeland security and shouldn’t have to shoulder the incarceration costs.
“If we’re going to continue to see nothing but cuts come our way, and accountability measures for us, then I think turnaround is fair play,” Gregoire said. “They have to live up to their responsibility and we need to hold them accountable.”
In her letter, Gregoire asked that the federal government repay the state by Aug. 1, or take custody of the prisoners.
“I can’t put these people free on the street,” she said. “Public safety is at risk here. They’re holding us accountable in every respect. It’s high time the states said we too are going to hold you accountable.”
In May, 14 governors, including Gregoire, Schwarzenegger and Napolitano, called on Congress to allot $850 million to fund the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program, which reimburses the states.