GOP Senators: DOJ Program Wastes Money on 'Sanctuary Cities'

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Two Republican senators are sounding the alarm over a Justice Department program, complaining that it provides funding to cities that are safe havens for illegal immigrants.

Sens. Richard Shelby of Alabama and David Vitter of Louisiana sent a letter Friday to Attorney General Eric Holder expressing concerns that funding from the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program, or SCAAP, which provides federal reimbursements to states and municipalities for the costs of jailing illegal immigrants convicted of crimes, is going to cities with "sanctuary city" policies.

"The State Criminal Alien Assistance Program is essentially providing room and board for illegal aliens and potential terrorists in sanctuary cities," the senators said in the letter. "Localities who hypocritically request SCAAP funding are providing sanctuary and safe havens for criminal aliens."

Sanctuary cities prevent local law enforcement officials from asking the people they come into contact with about their immigration status, often based on the argument that immigration enforcement is the federal government's responsibility and is not the best use of local resources.

The senators are calling on Holder to stop providing payments to cities with sanctuary policies. A request to reauthorize the program is currently pending before Congress.

"The Department of Justice should not be providing law enforcement dollars to cities that provide safe haven to criminal aliens and potential terrorists, as these tax dollars could be used more wisely and efficiently in cities that are legitimately fighting the battle against illegal immigration," the senators wrote.

A Justice Department spokeswoman wouldn't comment for this story other than to say the department was reviewing the letter.

The senators noted that the department has not requested funding for the program in the past seven years. But the Office of Management and Budget "airdropped" the program into the department's budget request for $330 million for the next fiscal year.

"Since 2000, five states have disproportionately received $2.2 billion of the $2.8 billion in funding this program has received, with some of these states having sanctuary cities," the senators wrote.

Those states are California, New York, Florida, Texas and Arizona.

Shelby's office told that the senators prefer the funds go to cities that are working with federal immigration authorities to crack down on illegal immigration.