New Report Shows Cost of Imprisoning Criminal Aliens is, well, Criminal
By Heather Ham-Warren | August 17, 2018
On Thursday, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report titled “Criminal Alien Statistics: Information on Incarcerations, Arrests, Convictions, Costs, and Removals.” The report contained shocking revelations about the criminal alien population in the United States, as well as the subsequent costs borne by American taxpayers.
The GAO is an independent, nonpartisan agency that works for Congress. According to the GAO website, the agency’s work is done at the request of congressional committees or subcommittees or is mandated by public laws or committee reports.” This specific report— relating to criminal alien incarceration statistics— is an update of the GAO’s 2011 report on the same issue, and was requested by Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) with Representatives Steve King (R-Iowa) and Pete Sessions (R-Texas).
The 120-page report is broken into several sections. After the introduction and table of contents, the GAO includes a letter to the Members of Congress that requested the updated report. The letter demonstrates why it is important to know how many criminal aliens are currently incarcerated in the United States, and says, in part:
“The costs associated with incarcerating criminal aliens are borne by the federal government as well as states and localities. Aliens convicted in federal court and sentenced to a term of imprisonment are committed to the custody of the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Prisons, and the federal government bears the total cost of incarcerating these criminal aliens.
The federal government also reimburses states and localities for a portion of state and local incarceration costs for criminal alien populations that meet the criteria for reimbursement for DOJ’s Bureau of Justice Assistance State Criminal Alien Assistance Program.”
At a time when the United States has a growing national debt, as well as an overburdened and an overcrowded prison system, it is crucial to understand the impact criminal aliens have on our prison system.
The report highlights the fact that incarcerated criminal aliens are overwhelmingly citizens from Central and South American countries. In fact, from fiscal years 2011 through 2016, there were a total of 198,000 criminal aliens incarcerated in a federal prison (35 percent of the total number of unique inmates during those same years); and of the approximately 198,000 criminal aliens incarcerated, a whopping 91 percent were citizens of one of six countries. Seventy-seven percent of incarcerated criminal aliens were from Mexico, 4 percent from Honduras, 3 percent from El Salvador, 3 percent from the Dominican Republic, 2 percent from Colombia, 2 percent from Guatemala, and only 9 percent for the entire rest of the world combined.
Furthermore, the report reveals the significant financial burden imposed on American taxpayers by the incarceration of criminal aliens. Between 2011 and 2016, the average annual cost of incarcerating criminal aliens hovered around $1.5 billion. In 2016, the American people were explicit that illegal immigration was a top concern, making construction of a border wall the clearest mandate for this Congress. The aforementioned information on the criminal alien population demonstrates the need for a more secure southern border.
As Congress continues to work through the appropriations process, this report could strengthen President Trump’s request to fund over 200 miles of new physical barrier construction along the southern border, as well as increases in funding for U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).