Yet another program designed to identify deportable aliens appears to be on the Obama administration’s chopping block. In its latest move, the administration is again acting unilaterally to slash funding for the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP), a $400 million a year program that compensates local jurisdictions around the country for the costs of jailing illegal aliens. The administration has tried to stop the compensation program all together by cutting it out of the budget sent to Congress, but Congress has resisted and has continued to fund the program.

Now, the administration has decided that if Congress will not eliminate the SCAAP, it will act on its own to eliminate the largest segment of the compensation. Local jurisdictions receive SCAAP funds – which reimburse them for only a fraction of the cost of incarcerating foreign criminals – by providing information on prisoners who are foreign born and the period of time they are imprisoned. The federal government apportions funds based on the number of aliens recognized as deportable aliens and a share of those aliens who are “unknown” to the immigration authorities. The latter category – the unknown aliens – is the largest group, accounting for 58 percent of the prisoners.

The administration claims the cuts are due to budget pressures, but the real reason probably has more to do with furthering its policy of non-enforcement. The SCAAP program alerts the federal authorities of aliens who should be deported when released from prison, and the unknown aliens identified by the program provide a lead for the immigration authorities to investigate to establish their deportability. The administration appears to be trying to suppress this source of information coming from local law enforcement officials about jailed aliens in addition to those already scheduled for deportation.