‘If the taxpayers only knew’: County attorney decries costs of illegal aliens

Here is how illegal aliens affect a county in Minnesota. From the Prior Lake American

By Shannon Fiecke, Correspondent
A man in the country illegally who committed a $27,000 identity-theft crime in Scott County was still able to obtain tens of thousands of federal dollars in medical assistance, including surgery for an inflatable penis pump.

In response to heightened concern about illegal immigration since a gang-related stabbing in Shakopee, Scott County Attorney Pat Ciliberto has been tallying known costs to taxpayers and gave this example.

“There’s no logical argument for why that should have been approved,” Ciliberto told county commissioners on Tuesday. “I don’t know how many illegal aliens are getting emergency medical assistance for such a procedure.”

It is impossible to know the full cost of illegal immigrants in Scott County receiving public assistance or going through the court system, but the burden on the jail alone is staggering.

The county’s cost for housing inmates with immigration holds has grown nearly tenfold in recent years, reaching more than $307,000 last year. The impact over the last four years totaled $843,600, which doesn’t even include medical coverage.

“It should be obvious when Scott County goes from seven bookings in 2006 to 90 bookings in 2009 that Arizona’s problem is Minnesota’s problem too,” Ciliberto said.

These numbers represent just a portion of the illegal immigrants actually housed in Scott County.

The jail routinely checks the immigration status of foreign-born inmates. But for every illegal alien that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) puts a hold on and actually takes, there are probably two to three the agency ignores, said Scott County Jail Lt. Doug Schnurr. (The jail does not keep statistics on its total illegal-inmate population.)

When ICE does pick someone up, Schnurr said he’s heard the agency typically asks the illegal alien a bunch of questions before releasing him or her on the street the same day.

“The number they keep in custody is relatively small,” he said.
Because of limited resources, ICE can only target the most extreme cases, Schnurr explained.

“The guy going around shoplifting is not as nearly as big a concern as an illegal going around shooting people. They prioritize in that fashion,” Schnurr said.

Shakopee Police Chief Jeff Tate noted that ICE always puts holds on individuals who’ve been deported before.

Scott County is only able to recoup about 7 percent of its cost from the federal government for incarcerating illegal immigrants, Ciliberto said.

There are also unseen costs.

Virtually all meth coming into Scott County is produced in Mexico, and much of the area’s cocaine and marijuana is being trafficked across the U.S. southern border, according to the Southwest Metro Drug Task Force.

While American troops are patrolling other countries, Ciliberto sees an emergency unfolding here.

“Mexico is collapsing; the democracy may be collapsing. It does constitute a national security threat,” Ciliberto said. “We have no control over the southern border. We don’t know who is coming in and what country they’re coming from.”

In Mexico, more than 23,000 have been killed in the past four years because of drug cartels fighting for power, he said.

Scott County officials say they’re bound by federal and state rules in providing welfare to illegal aliens, and there are also costs to the courts, schools and hospitals.

“My hat’s off to Arizona, to people who’ve said, ‘We’ve had enough,’” said county Commissioner Barbara Marschall of Prior Lake. “We’re thousands miles away from the southern border. It’s here and it’s going to get worse.”

It is impossible to tally the total welfare costs because of data privacy restrictions, Ciliberto said.

“If the taxpayers only knew,” Ciliberto said. “The taxpayers should know.”

In addition to being eligible for emergency medical assistance and pregnancy assistance, if illegal aliens bear children in this country, they can obtain welfare benefits for their children and aren’t required to provide Social Security numbers, said county health and human services director Tim Walsh.

“In many of our criminal investigations involving illegal aliens we find that people here illegally are receiving substantial financial benefits paid for by taxpayers or have received them,” Ciliberto said.

Marschall pointed out that local taxpayers are having difficulty while the county is forced to pick up costs for illegal aliens due to state and federal rules.

“Maybe it’s time for a revolution here. That 14th Amendment, we are a different country than we were back then,” she said.
Ciliberto said the 14th Amendment, guaranteeing citizenship to children born in the United States, was enacted during Reconstruction to protect the offspring of African slaves.

County Commissioner Jon Ulrich of Savage suggested local officials develop a strategy to combat illegal immigration.

“They’re obviously overwhelmed,” he said. “I don’t think it’s something we can just throw up our hands and say we can’t do anything.”

The intrinsic cost to the system nationwide “could be billions, trillions of dollars,” said County Commissioner Tom Wolf of Savage.
“The cheapest way to deal with this is to stop the leak,” Ciliberto said. “We have troops stationed all over the world. We do not have troops stationed on our border.”

Ciliberto said Scott County is not a sanctuary county but is stymied by the federal government, which provides welfare benefits to illegal aliens and not enough enforcement support.
“Immigration and customs enforcement are not properly funded and staffed,” he said.

Ciliberto gave the example of one woman, here illegally, who was deported in 2001 for running drugs.

In 2009, the woman was stopped in Scott County on a traffic violation. She was held 25 days in the Scott County Jail before being released to the federal government.

Scott County found out that while the woman was here illegally, she received public financial assistance of more than $15,000.
Even though she entered the country illegally again, she is now demanding a deportation hearing and another individual has applied for welfare benefits to care for the woman’s two children in Scott County, Ciliberto said.

“There is no logic; we are at total cross-purposes in what we’re paying to people who are committing crimes by entering this country,” he said.

And what happened to the convicted felon who got a penis pump at taxpayer expense? After serving 98 days for a felony in the Scott County Jail – at a $12,000 cost to local taxpayers – the man was supposed to be held for deportation. Instead, he was released with only a deportation court date because ICE didn’t want to be responsible for medical costs he might incur while in federal custody.

The same man had a different warrant out for his arrest when arrested in Scott County, and he skipped a court hearing here while out on bail.

“The odds of him reporting voluntarily for his deportation hearing are probably slim to none,” Ciliberto said.

Shannon Fiecke can be reached at (952) 345-6679 or sfiecke@swpub.com.

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