In Tarrant County’s jail, 7,000 arguments for passing immigration reform

Posted Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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Yet another argument for federal immigration reform is as close as your county tax bill.

Washington’s failure to repair a broken immigration system has cost Tarrant County taxpayers about $3 million per year the last two years, simply to hold more than 7,000 immigrants for the federal government to sort for possible removal.

Some were dangerous criminals we couldn’t afford to let out of jail. But a few were technical immigration violators or petty misdemeanor suspects who posed no violent threat, yet still were housed and fed at local expense awaiting trial and possible removal in the event of any conviction.

The online Texas Tribune compiled the costs based on monthly reports authorized in a 2011 law meant to shame Congress into revamping immigration laws, or at least reimbursing counties.

Instead, the reports show local voters the cost of federal inaction.

The 250 or so illegal immigrants in the Tarrant County jail at any given time represent less than 10 percent of the jail population of about 3,500. But because illegal immigrants are held for possible later removal, they stay in jail regardless of whether they actually pose a local threat.

Had Congress reformed federal immigration law by now, either by granting legal work permits or by opening the controversial pathway to citizenship, some immigrants might be residents eligible for bond and a return to work.

This is another example of how Congress’ failure becomes more expensive by the day.

The Senate has passed a reform bill, but the House is divided over whether to grant work permits or offer a pathway to citizenship.

Either solution is better than no solution.

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