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El Paso County officials give no "amnesty' to feds 

Considering the constant references to failed border security, you might have assumed the county commission was debating immigration policy at last Thursday's meeting.

In theory, however, the commissioners were talking money. Specifically, $72,157 in federal funds meant to reimburse El Paso County for the cost of jailing illegal immigrants who have committed a felony or multiple misdemeanors.

But El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa couldn't leave his personal feelings out of the discussion. Maketa said the federal funds wouldn't come close to covering the county's costs for those incarcerations, and he blamed "a complete breakdown and failure of our federal government to protect our borders."

According to Bureau Chief Paula Presley, about 70 to 95 illegal immigrants are in the county jail each day.

"If we just used the minimal average cost of housing these offenders and I'm not even going to get into the cost of them illegally being in our country and victimizing our citizens; I won't touch that just the housing aspect was somewhere around $1.1 million," Maketa said. "And it's deplorable, I think, that our federal government offers us $72,000 to pay for the services that they have proven to be completely incompetent in dealing with."

As recently as 2001, the county received $598,115 from the federal government's State Criminal Alien Assistance Program.

"They just keep whittling it away," Maketa said. "And it should also be known that under the president's budget proposal, he has recommended zero funding each of the years he has held office."

To this, Commissioner Douglas Bruce replied, "Can you say "amnesty'?"

Laughter ensued.

The commissioners voted unanimously to accept the money, with a grinning Bruce casting a vote of "Si."

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