A new report finds that Los Angeles County spends $26 million a year to detain undocumented immigrants for the federal Secure Communities program.
Here’s how Secure Communities works: When local law enforcement makes any arrest, the detainees' fingerprints are sent to a federal database. If the person is deportable, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will ask local law enforcement to keep the person in detention for no more than 48 hours, until federal agents can transfer that person to one of its facilities.
The report from New York-based advocacy organization Justice Strategies puts a dollar figure on L.A. County’s spending for immigrant detention. The report says the cost is so high because county jails hold undocumented immigrants, on average, for 20 days — not the mandated 48 hours. Justice Strategies would not respond to an interview request.
But ICE’s regional spokeswoman Virginia Kice said the agency typically takes custody of an undocumented immigrant in local detention in a matter of hours. If it doesn’t assume custody after 48 hours, local law enforcement is required to release that individual. Advocacy groups want L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca to release information about how long county jails detain most immigrants.
A federal program reimburses local jurisdictions for a portion of Secure Communities detention costs. The State Criminal Alien Assistance Program gave L.A. County nearly $10 million last year.