Study: Local Immigration Enforcement Comes with Significant Price Tag

Oct 3, 2018

Across Virginia, local taxpayers are paying for federal immigration enforcement.  That's the finding of a new analysis by the Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis.

Much of the immigration debate has focused around whether it’s right for local jails to detain people wanted by the federal government for immigration violations. For local governments, it’s also a matter of dollars and cents.

According to the Commonwealth Institute, the cost to local jails of detaining people wanted by the federal government last year was $830,000.

“Virginia localities can and should assess the full cost of participation in these enforcement policies so they can come to that kind of clear-eyed decision around the use of local resources to carry out federal immigration enforcement activity,” says Michael Cassidy, president at the Commonwealth Institute.

Mia Taylor is a community organizer with Tenants and Workers United, which has been pressing the Alexandria sheriff to get a warrant signed by a judge before he detains anybody.

“We know that typically they’re looking for folks on civil immigration violations," Taylor says, "and that is not something that local jails should be in the business of.”

Click here to read the full report from the Commonwealth Institute

Local jails get reimbursed for some costs, like the burden of housing federal inmates waiting for trial. But the cost to local governments of detaining people wanted by the federal government — $830,000 a year — that’s not reimbursed by the federal government.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.