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.