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Madison County Discusses Reimbursement for Undocumented Inmates

Immigration is a hot-button issue.

As federal lawmakers debate a proposed immigration bill, local counties are dealing with their own immigration issues.

One is up for discussion in Madison County. Commissioners there are deciding whether or not to seek funding for housing undocumented criminal aliens in the county jail.

"We're searching for every dollar that rightfully belongs to Madison County because of some service we're doing for another branch of the government," Madison County Judge Arthur Henson said.

Numerous counties state and nationwide have signed on to save taxpayers money.
They receive federal reimbursements for housing undocumented criminal aliens, and Madison County could be the next in line.

"Every dollar we can get back means the tax payers here won't have to fund that dollar," Henson said.

At a recent commissioners meeting, Dallas based Justice Benefits Consulting, briefed the court on possible federal funding opportunities.

If an undocumented criminal alien is housed for at least four days, has been convicted of one felony or two misdemeanors the county could receive a federal reimbursement.

The consulting firm acts like a middleman, it gets 22 percent of the federal funds that actually come to the county and no money is paid up front.

"A lot of times it makes sense to let people that have expertise to do it and pay them a portion of the income instead of tying up our people or equipment up," Henson said.

Justice Benefits Consulting says it helps 600 counties nationwide and 60 counties in Texas including Brazos County, which has used the firm for the past three years.

In 2005 the county was reimbursed just over $87,000 in federal funding for housing 186 undocumented criminal aliens.

Madison County houses fewer. Officials estimate 36 a year.

Even though the county would receive a smaller refund, officials say every dollar counts.
Whether they'll sign up with the Dallas consulting firm has yet to be decided.
County officials expect to resume discussion at an upcoming commissioners meeting.


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