GRAND JUNCTION — A six-year-old Colorado law that requires local law enforcement to report suspected illegal immigrants to federal authorities is costing local agencies in the state more than $13 million annually , according to a study released Wednesday.
The Colorado Fiscal Institute's study tallies the cost of arresting, reporting and detaining undocumented immigrants and found that they spend an average of 22 days longer in county jails than other arrestees and that local communities are paying that cost.
The law the study focuses on — SB 90 — requires law enforcement officers to report suspected undocumented foreigners who are arrested on a criminal offense to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The law has been controversial because immigrants' rights groups believes it leads to racial profiling. Opponents also argued, when the law was passed, that it would be a financial burden for local law enforcement agencies.
SB 90 also has been called unnecessary because the 4-year-old federal Secure Communities law makes it redundant. Secure Communities requires the fingerprints of every arrested person to be submitted to Immigration and Customs Enforcement for a citizenship check.
The study released by the Campaign to Unite Colorado is the first to look at the cost of SB 90 since it was passed. The Campaign is made up of members and partners of the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition. The Colorado Fiscal Institute is a new organization that analyzes fiscal issues affecting Colorado.
The study showed that Colorado law enforcement agencies spend more than $13 million annually to enforce federal laws. The City and County of Denver pays nearly $1.5 million of that.
SB 90 is supposed to apply only to those arrested for criminal offenses, but the study found that those suspected of being illegal immigrants are not being given citations and released as others would be for more minor offenses. They are being booked in local jails at higher numbers.
In Denver County, 63 percent of those booked over a two-year period with immigration detainers, were charged with misdemeanor or lower-level offenses.