Nearly 200 illegal immigrant inmates transferred from Oklahoma custody

Nearly a year after the Oklahoma Criminal Illegal Alien Rapid Repatriation Act went into effect, 185 immigrant inmates serving time in state custody have been handed over to federal officials and deported. So far, eight have returned.
BY VALLERY BROWN Modified: August 2, 2010 at 9:15 am •  Published: August 2, 2010
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photo - Twenty three inmates were transferred from the Oklahoma Department of Corrections into the custody of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency just before sunrise Thursday, July 23, 2009. The transfer took place at the John Lilley facility in Boley. The prisoners, who are  illegal immigrants, will be deported to their home country. Photo by Jim  Beckel
Twenty three inmates were transferred from the Oklahoma Department of Corrections into the custody of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency just before sunrise Thursday, July 23, 2009. The transfer took place at the John Lilley facility in Boley. The prisoners, who are illegal immigrants, will be deported to their home country. Photo by Jim Beckel

A year-old state law is saving Oklahomans millions of dollars by deporting illegal immigrant criminals back to their home countries.

Oklahoma is one of about five states using similar methods to ease inmate overcrowding in prison systems, federal immigration officials say.

"It's working," said Jerry Massie, state Corrections Department spokesman. "They're not in the system and taking up bed space anymore."

Bed space is valuable in a system that has nearly 1,300 inmates waiting to enter it from county jails.

Of the approximately 25,000 inmates in state Department of Corrections custody, about 560 are suspected to be in the country illegally. About 385 of those are eligible for transfer and deportation based on their crimes.

But corrections officials admit some deportees are likely to break their agreements and come back.

"If they've got a lot of family ties here, the likelihood of them trying to slip back in and be with their families increases," Massie said.

One who returned

Border agents arrested 27-year-old Sanchez Leborio less than three weeks after he was deported to Mexico from Oklahoma in October. Leborio had returned over the southern U.S. border and was picked up in Yuma, Ariz.

He's one of eight known to have returned to the U.S. of the 185 individuals deported in the year since the Oklahoma Criminal Illegal Alien Rapid Repatriation Act went into effect.

All of the returnees face federal penalties. After that time is served, state law requires offenders be returned here to complete the remainder of the Oklahoma sentence they were serving at the time of their deportation.

Leborio, who was incarcerated in Oklahoma under the name Ricardo Sanchez Rosales, is in custody less than a mile from the Mexico border. He's charged with the federal crime of illegal entry after removal and faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

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The Oklahoma Criminal Alien Rapid Repatriation Act
The Oklahoma Criminal Alien Rapid Repatriation Act was introduced by Rep. Randy Terrill, R-Moore, in 2009. Sen. Anthony Sykes, R-Moore, was the primary author in the Senate.

Much of the law mirrors language written by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials for the federal rapid repatriation program. A federal version of the program began in 2007 and five states have agreements with federal immigration officials to identify and repatriate incarcerated criminals.

Oklahoma's program is a state-run program and not a part of the federal rapid repatriation program.

SOURCE: OKLAHOMA LEGISLATURE AND U.S. IMMIGRATION AND CUSTOMS ENFORCEMENT


Incarceration of illegal immigrants
$19,798: Average annual prison cost per offender.

$1,634: Average annual amount paid per offender by the federal government to help offset the cost of illegal immigrant inmates.

$3.36 million: Approximate amount saved during first year of repatriation act.

$462 million: State Corrections Department fiscal year 2010 budget.

SOURCE: STATE CRIMINAL ALIEN ASSISTANCE PROGRAM FUNDS, OKLAHOMA CORRECTIONS DEPARTMENT

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