Cameron County taxpayers footing bill for undocumented inmates

Cameron County taxpayers footing bill for undocumented inmates
News Center 23

POSTED: Monday, October 21, 2013 - 3:37pm

UPDATED: Monday, October 21, 2013 - 3:38pm

A monthly average of 255 undocumented inmates is costing Cameron County millions, all because the federal government is not fully reimbursing the county for these expenditures....and that means local taxpayers have been footing the bill. 

"The federal government will give you all - pass all the laws, but they don't give you enough resources to go ahead and proceed with this thing right here, and the state requires us to do additional stuff," said Cameron County Sheriff Omar Lucio.

Sheriff Lucio says the government does not begin reimbursing Cameron County until 48 hours after holiday and weekend arrests, nor does it cover the inmates' medical costs.

And because of the often lengthy judicial process, the inmates are usually imprisoned for quite some time before they can even see a judge.

"If he has a violation and by the time it's processed through the court system, it might be two, three or even four months or maybe longer," said Lucio.

But there are solutions to expedite the entire process and spare the county some money.

One of the solutions Sheriff Lucio suggested is getting these inmates some time before the judge who can then determine who the severity of their crime and how long they should be locked up.

"We need to, you know, emphasize more strongly to the District Attorney and to the judges to process these people as quickly as possible, because they're minor violations," said Lucio. "Perhaps they can release them. Perhaps they can spend two or three days here in jail and that be sufficient."

Lucio says this solution probably won't be taken to a legislature for at least another two years.

Reporting in Cameron County, Marty Watson, KVEO News Center 23.

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