JULIE BISBEE, Capitol Bureau Published: June 14, 2009
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Oklahoma will begin deporting illegal immigrants who are serving sentences for nonviolent crimes when a new law takes effect July 1.

The Oklahoma Criminal Illegal Alien Rapid Repatriation Act is expected to save Oklahoma taxpayers at least $4 million in the first year, said Rep. Randy Terrill, R-Moore, the author of the measure.

The bill passed the House unanimously and received just one no vote in the Senate.

Terrill, who has authored several bills concerning illegal immigration, said the legislation is an attempt to get the federal government to pick up the tab for housing people who are in the country illegally.

"The federal government has fallen down on protecting the nation’s borders,” Terrill said.

"The federal government has improperly shifted the cost to the states. This is a way to shift it back to them,” he said.

The law will allow an offender who is in the country illegally to be considered for deportation if they have been convicted of a nonviolent crime and have served a third of their sentence.

Federal officials must issue an order for deportation, and an offender cannot be deported if they have pending federal charges, said Carl Rusnok, director of communications for the central region of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

If an undocumented immigrant returns to the state, they can be sent back to prison to serve the remaining sentence and additional time if prosecuted for entering the United States illegally after being deported, Rusnok said.

The law prohibits private prisons from contracting to house federal detainees, such as prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, and requires private prisons to get Corrections Department approval for new construction plans.