I-Team: Potter County Spends More Than $1 Mil. Housing Immigrants

- AMARILLO --  The cost of holding undocumented immigrants in the Potter County Jail, fell more than 7% between 2012 and 2013, but, that doesn't necessarily mean there are fewer undocumented immigrants in Texas.

"It may be too early to tell," says Texas Commission on Jail Standards, Brandon Wood. "Now, a lot of different factors could be impacting that.  And, the number of people being arrested and the number of detainer's being issued by the federal government, so there are a lot of different factors that can be involved in that. "

Data released by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards shows a statewide decrease in the number of immigrants held on federal detainer's and the associated costs.

This information comes after the Texas legislature passed a law in 2011 requiring all county jails in the state to file monthly reports on how many undocumented immigrants were held in their jails and what it costs.

Potter County had the 20th highest cost in the state since 2011 spending more than $1 in that span.

"It fluctuates," says Potter County Jail Administrator Capt. Lisa Dawson   "But like I said, right now we house a little over 20."

The statewide average for housing an undocumented immigrant is between $59 and $60 a day, but, in Potter county the cost is a little less than $41 per day.

These immigrants are not being held by county jails on immigration matters.

Wood explains, "Local law enforcement does not enforce immigration laws. That's a federal purview. 

Capt. Dawson says, "If we're housing an immigrant it's because they committed a state crime.  So, patrol has picked them up and they're housing them in the potter county jail for the state crime.... then we put a hold on them for immigration.

"Everybody realizes if you take up the slack and do the government's job, then they have no motivation to do their job, they'll let you do it.   More than likely in the end they'll cut your funding and still make you do it," says Wood.

Texas county jails have spent a little less than $188-million housing more than 155-thousand undocumented immigrants since the new law took effect in October of 2011.

Prior to this new law counties had the "option" of seeking reimbursement through a program called the "state criminal alien assistance program known as SCAAP.

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