DHS memo: Suspects of welfare fraud, other crimes are deportable

SNAP: The Bureau of Economic Security/SNAP is located at the Department of Health and Social Services main facility in Mangilao. Norman M. Taruc/The Guam Daily Post

A newly issued Trump administration memo might offer the government of Guam a way to further free up space, not just at the prison, but also at pre-trial detention facilities.

The Department of Homeland Security memo, issued Feb. 17, authorizes Immigration and Customs Enforcement to include "aliens" who have been charged with "any criminal offense," even if they have not been convicted, as a priority for being sent back to their home countries.

The memo also lists "aliens" who "have abused any program related to the receipt of public benefits" as candidates for removal from the United States. 

The Feb. 17 memo is separate from President Donald Trump’s Jan. 29 draft executive order that makes it a deportable offense for "aliens" who become a "public charge," or a public burden.

In the more recent memo, deportation or removal of an "alien" would apply if he or she committed fraud when receiving public benefits, such for public housing, health care and food stamps.

Last fiscal year, the Guam Department of Public Health’s Division of Public Welfare spent $13.9 million for services to regional immigrants, an increase of 33 percent from fiscal 2015.

Compact impact report

Over the past 13 years, the department has spent $160 million for services to citizens of the Freely Associated States for public welfare benefits, for which federal government reimbursement is requested, according to the government of Guam's 2016 Compact report. 

The Feb. 17 memo implements Trump’s Jan. 25 executive order. 

The hiring of about 10,000 ICE officers and agents, "expeditiously," also is outlined in the memo to enforce the tough immigration stance of the Trump administration. 

The Trump memo became public as GovGuam sent out another annual report to the federal government outlining the cost GovGuam has incurred for hosting regional immigrants, including housing them in federal prison, youth detention and pre-trial jail facilities.

Immigrant detainees

If GovGuam takes this path that the Trump administration is authorizing, this could potentially free up a lot of space and ease GovGuam’s cost of hosting immigrant detainees.

The memo says not only are convicted "aliens" deportable, so are those who "have been charged with any criminal offense that has not been resolved."

GovGuam reported that 1,148 of those incarcerated or detained at the Department of Corrections facility last fiscal year are citizens of the Freely Associated States, mostly from the Federated States of Micronesia. That total was a 2.6 percent increase from fiscal 2015, according to the GovGuam report.

It costs more than $118 per day to house an individual person at DOC, and over the past seven years, the department spent more than $56 million hosting regional immigrants, according to the the GovGuam Compact impact report.

GovGuam's Youth Correctional Facility and cottage homes confined 264 regional immigrant kids last fiscal year, a 32 percent increase from the previous year, according to the same report.

The average daily cost to house each youth detainee rose from $291 in fiscal 2015 to $343 last fiscal year.

Last fiscal year, the total cost for 264 youth detainees from regional immigrant families was $2.2 million, according to the GovGuam report.

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