John Ransom

The General Accounting Office estimates that as of 2009 there were currently about 350,000 criminal aliens in U.S. prisons, “the majority from Mexico.” At $30,000 per year, per inmate, that’s $11 billion annually, with most of the costs born by the states.  

While not all of the criminal aliens are here illegally, criminal illegals are putting a strain on budgets, especially in the states with large illegal immigration populations such as Arizona, Colorado, California, Florida, New York, and Texas.

Not coincidentally, many of those same states are facing the largest budget shortfalls for fiscal year 2011 and 2012, including New York and California. Some estimate state budget shortfalls of over $100 billion in 2012 across state governments in the U.S.

In California, it’s estimated that prisoners who are illegal immigrants cost the state at least $1 billion per year just to keep them in prison.

Across the country, states' governments are shouldering both the growing financial burden of keeping criminal illegal aliens in jail and the growing law enforcement burden of securing the community from the crimes of illegal aliens in the face of hostility from the executive branch of the federal government.  

Corrections.com trumpets the problem as “Foreign Inmates Busting Budgets.”

"There's no question illegal immigration continues to be a large and costly problem in California and around the nation," Rep. Kevin McCarthy, a Republican from CA-22, told Bakersfield’s Eyewitness News. "The first and most important step to addressing this problem is securing our border. The federal government can and should do more to ensure our border is secure, including more physical barriers, border patrol and electronic surveillance."

The Denver Post reports that foreign-born inmates are the fastest growing segment of the prison population in the Mile High state. The number in U.S. Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainers in Colorado prisons “have more than doubled in 10 years from 680 to 1,500, said Tom Clements, executive director of the state Department of Corrections,” according to the Post.

"That's huge," Clements emphasized.

As the economy continues to stumble, states are getting pinched hard by the federal government because they refuse to address immigration reform.

In Colorado, Attorney General John Suthers estimates that the cost to house prisoners in the U.S. illegally was $58 million in 2008.


John Ransom

John Ransom is the Finance Editor for Townhall Finance.