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Dallas Officials: New Immigration Law Will Fill Jail, Increase Costs

Dallas County, Texas, commissioners say new state legislation allowing arrests of undocumented migrants could lead to a crowded jail and increased costs to taxpayers and the community. The bill, waiting to be signed by the governor, would make it a state crime to cross the border illegally and would allow any law enforcement officer to make an arrest. Unlawful entry already is a federal felony, but this bill would also make it a state crime. County Commissioner Elba Garcia said the legislation encourages racism, disparity and discrimination. “Laws like this are put forward to create division, discrimination, and for political purposes, against the community that the only thing they want is to work and have an opportunity to do it,” she said, reports the Dallas Morning News.

Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw said the legislation could lead to about 72,000 arrests statewide per year. Dallas Commissioner Andrew Sommerman said the county is estimated to see about 10 percent of those arrests. He totaled up the costs of jail, attorneys and any additional resources, saying that one person arrested on this new charge could cost taxpayers almost $380. “This will break the county financially,” Sommerman said. When signed, Senate Bill 4 would allow any law enforcement officer in the state to jail someone who is unable to provide proof of legal temporary or permanent residency within 48 hours. An undocumented migrant can be charged with a misdemeanor for a first-time offense or a felony if the person has a criminal record or has repeatedly entered the U.S. illegally. County Judge Clay Lewis Jenkins said incarcerating people who have crossed the border illegally means less room for those accused of other crimes. “There’s not room in the jail anymore for people who steal your television set and break into your garage or worse,” he said.


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