Joe Nelson, Staff Writer
Created: 06/27/2012 04:31:58 PM PDT

A new policy that could slash the amount of federal funding San Bernardino County receives for housing illegal immigrants at its jails has the Board of Supervisors fighting mad.

On Tuesday, the board authorized a request for funding from the federal government to cover at least part of the costs for incarcerating illegal immigrants suspected of criminal activity, which cost the county more than $17 million last year.

The U.S. Department of Justice has adopted a new policy that prohibits the use of State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP) funds to reimburse costs to counties nationwide for the housing of illegal immigrants suspected of crimes.

“This is a persistent failure at the federal level and it directly affects our taxpayers,” Supervisor Brad Mitzelfelt said in a statement Tuesday.

The Sheriff’s Department budgeted $1.5 million in SCAAP reimbursement for the 2012-13 fiscal year. To date, the county has received reimbursements totaling $14.9 million over a 14-year period, according to Mitzelfelt’s office.

The county sent a letter to Congress on June 10 seeking assistance in overturning the decision of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Officials for the Department of Justice could not be reached for comment.

For the last three years, the county has fought an uphill battle to get the government to pick up more of the jail costs, only to have funding dwindle due to budget woes.

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