Arresting illegal aliens in the Umatilla County has paid off - at least a little.

The U.S. Department of Justice gave $28,903 to Umatilla County to reimburse some of the costs of keeping illegal aliens in the county jail in Pendleton.

The money came for federally mandated programs the county is providing as local costs.

Umatilla County Sheriff John Trumbo said the jail houses an average of seven illegal inmates a day, though it has had as many as 14 and as few as one. Housing illegals costs about $142,000 a year, he said.

The award may seem small compared to that expense, Trumbo said, but it's still $29,000 the sheriff's office didn't have.

Trumbo said the federal government drives local political entities to assume more responsibility for the administration and delivery of government services, and many times those services are funded with local dollars.

Sometimes there is federal funding available to mitigate those costs, but finding and getting that money isn't simple or easy. That's why the county asked Justice Benefits, Inc., for help in finding the money, Trumbo said.

Justice Benefits, or JBI, is a public consulting firm in Dallas, Texas, that specializes in locating and accessing hard to find reimbursements for local and state entities. The company does the research, gathers and analyzes the data and completes all necessary information for the application.

Trumbo said the sheriff's office doesn't have the time or man power to go after these kinds of funds. And it would be more expensive for the county if his workers did.

"It's a whole lot better program for us," Trumbo said.

Umatilla County was one of 871 eligible local entities - out of 3,140 - across the U.S. that got this federal funding.

JBI contracts its service on a no-risk contingency fee basis, meaning if the company doesn't find any money it doesn't get any money, Trumbo said.

"And that's the reason we use them," he said.

Trumbo said he didn't know what JBI made on this, but last year the sheriff's office received about $31,000 in this program, and JBI took about $2,500 of that, leaving the rest to the sheriff's office.

Now-a-days the sheriff's office is finding fewer illegals, Trumbo said. They are still in the county, but they are doing a better job of keeping their heads down.

He attributed that to how quickly the federal immigration service is acting when local entities call about possible illegals. Trumbo said when his office arrests an illegal, staff calls U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (formerly the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service), which then asks the county to hold the person in the jail. It's often a matter of days before federal agents take the illegal alien away, the sheriff said.

Trumbo also said while $142,000 is a burden on taxpayers, it's better than the $360,000 the sheriff's office was spending on illegals just a couple of years ago.

"I think we are making some progress, at least at this point," Trumbo said.

There were so many illegals and the cost was so high, Trumbo garnered national attention because he wrote a letter to Vicente Fox, then president of Mexico, asking for money.

Mexico didn't send any funds.

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