Justice Department Turns Deaf Ear to Governor

By Kevin Mooney | July 7, 2008 | 8:31pm EDT

(1st Add: Includes comments from Justice Department spokesman Evan Peterson.)

(CNSNews.com) - The U.S. Justice Department has apparently snubbed Washington State's Democratic governor, refusing to reply to a $50 million bill that Gov. Christine Gregoire sent demanding reimbursement for incarcerating illegal aliens.

Gregoire had asked that the Justice Department reply by Tuesday. Since that deadline has expired, Gregoire is "considering her options," according to the governor's spokeswoman Althea Cawley-Murphree.

Those options, Cawley-Murphree said, would likely include approaching the state's congressional delegation.

Evan Peterson, a spokesman for the Justice Department, told Cybercast News Service that the agency had "received a letter and will respond to it. We will respond as quickly as we can."

Gregoire sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales in July, billing him for $50 million -- the amount she said the federal government owed the state for incarcerating illegal immigrants in Fiscal Years 2005 and 2006.

The letter included an invoice outlining a shortfall of roughly $25 million in federal reimbursement funds under the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP) for FY 2005. She requested approximately the same amount for costs accumulated in FY 2006 for a total of $50 million.

In Colorado, Republican Gov. Bill Owens signed several pieces of legislation into law on Monday designed to crack down on illegal immigration. House Bill 1023 was tailored to preclude illegal aliens from receiving state and federal benefits.

The new law requires that government agencies verify the lawful residency of applicants seeking benefits. A three-step process involving photo identification, the submission of a sworn affidavit, and approval through the SAVE (Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements) program will be used by government agencies under the legislation.

"It is the keystone piece of legislation from the special session," said Nate Strauch, deputy press secretary for Owens. Over the next year government agencies will work to verify the legal residency of the 1 million individuals who are currently on the receiving end of some form of government assistance in Colorado.

See Earlier Story:
Locking Up Illegal Aliens a Costly Proposition for States (July 31, 2006)

E-mail a news tip to Kevin Mooney.

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