Immigration Costs On Smith County Justice System

While Congress continues to debate "Illegal Immigrant Reform" we are looking at their impact here in East Texas.

  We asked local law enforcement about how it impacts our justice system. Every law enforcement official we talked to believes illegal immigration costs taxpayers. The problem is they don't really know how much.

  We do know of one specific instance that is going to cost taxpayers. One week ago, two heavily armed men repeatedly shot a DPS trooper. That was followed by a chase with police, during which more than 75 rounds of ammunition were aimed at law enforcement officers.

Now we found out, one of the suspects, Ramon Ramos, is in the United States illegally.

"We do prosecute a number of illegal immigrant and Ramon Ramos will be our next one," says Smith County District Attorney Matt Bingham.

The cost of convicting, Ramos and the other suspect could reach six figures. "If you added everything together. I think it's fair to say that it could go into the hundreds of thousand of dollars. We're going to spend whatever amount of money we have to spend to make sure that Ramon Ramos and Francisco Saucedo are convicted and don't victimize another person," says Bingham.

Smith County's Sheriff, J.B. Smith says, right now, it costs more than 30 dollars a day to keep an inmate in jail. But there is no way to know how many are illegal. "We are not able to sit down and interview every Hispanic that comes in to find out if they are illegal or not. We don't have the technology to prove that they are illegal and so as far as we are concerned they are just another criminal that coming into jail," says Sheriff Smith.

He says being an illegal immigrant is secondary to the department, solving a crime is the number one priority.

"After the crime is solved and the victim is care of then and only then are we concerned with the legal status of that individual," says Sheriff Smith.

Sheriff Smith say 5 years ago immigration estimated that their were over 15,000 illegal immigrants in Smith County. He believes that number has grown to over 25,000.

Karolyn Davis, reporting.