Friday, March 28, 2008

ICE: Deport 300,000 Inmates

I have to confess, I had no idea the number of deportable inmates in our nation's prison and jail systems was this high.

304,000 Inmates Eligible for Deportation:

At least 304,000 immigrant criminals eligible for deportation are behind bars nationwide, a top federal immigration official said Thursday.

That is the first official estimate of the total number of such convicts in federal, state and local prisons and jails.

The head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Julie L. Myers, said the annual number of deportable immigrant inmates was expected to vary from 300,000 to 455,000, or 10 percent of the overall inmate population, for the next few years.

Ms. Myers estimated that it would cost at least $2 billion a year to find all those immigrants and deport them.
On the one hand, that's a staggering amount of money and a staggering amount of inmates to have to identify, prepare and deport. On the other hand, at an average cost of $25,000 per year, per inmate, we're spending $7.6 billion each year just to feed and house this group of inmates.
In the intensely contentious debate over immigration, one point that generally draws broad agreement is that federal authorities should deport illegal immigrant criminals as swiftly as possible. But considerable confusion prevails about how fast that might be. Immigrants convicted of crimes — including illegal immigrants and those who had legal immigration status at the time of the crime — must serve their sentences before they can be deported. Many immigrant convicts are naturalized United States citizens who are not subject to deportation.
The Federal BOP does a pretty thorough job of keeping track of their illegal inmates (roughly 20,000 or so at any given time), but for the local jails and state prison systems, I would imagine the legal and paperwork nightmare involved in documenting this would be astonishingly difficult.

While illegal immigration is a contentious debate with very strong feelings on both sides of the issues, both sides do seem to agree that housing "illegal immigrant criminals" is something our Correctional-Industrial Complex should get out of the business of doing.

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