Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger suggested one more "trigger" alternative Monday if the federal government does not provide California with additional federal funds -- transferring undocumented immigrant prisoners to the federal government.
The Republican governor last week relied on getting $880 million in federal funds for undocumented inmates to help bridge the state's $19.9 billion deficit through June 2011. President Barack Obama proposed eliminating that funding altogether last year, and Congress plans to allocate not even half that amount for all 50 states.
"Why should we pay for it when it is the federal government that is having the lax policies on the borders, and is really in charge of immigration policies?" Schwarzenegger said Monday in Torrance during a press conference to promote his job creation plan. "So why should we pay for it? We just want to hand them over all those prisoners. You take them. If you don't want to pay us, you take the prisoners."
In last year's May budget revision, Schwarzenegger suggested the state could save $182 million by commuting sentences of low-level undocumented prisoners and having the federal government deport them, but the plan came under fire from Republicans and public safety groups. Schwarzenegger included a similar idea in a plan submitted last fall to a three-judge panel to reduce prison overcrowding.
The governor did not include commuting sentences of undocumented prisoners in the budget plan he released last week. But Schwarzenegger's statement Monday suggested that the governor is again willing to release undocumented immigrants to federal custody if Washington doesn't pay more money.
Besides his reference to prison costs, Schwarzenegger said Monday that he wasn't blaming U.S. Sen. Ben Nelson for getting a better deal for Nebraska in the federal health care overhaul.
"I think he did a great job fighting for his state," Schwarzenegger said. "What I am saying is, I wish Sen. Barbara Boxer is fighting for the same deal for California and our California delegation is fighting for the same thing. That's what I'm complaining about."
The governor cited Boxer but not Sen. Dianne Feinstein, with whom he has worked well on water negotiations. Boxer, a Democrat up for re-election this year, held a press call Friday to criticize Schwarzenegger for saying California only gets 78 cents for every dollar its taxpayers send the federal government. Boxer commissioned her own study saying California received $1.45 in 2009, including stimulus money.