Top federal immigration officials want other states to copy an Arizona program that releases non-violent, illegal-immigrant inmates from state prisons and deports them, reports the Arizona Republic. Only New York has a similar program, in which eligible inmates are turned over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials for immediate deportation. Arizona has referred 1,443 state prisoners to ICE, saving $18.6 million, since the program began in 2005, said Dora Schriro, director of the Arizona Department of Corrections. On average, inmates were released 210 days early.
Eligible inmates typically were convicted of crimes from drunken driving to lower-level drug charges. “It’s a great program. It keeps criminals off the streets of Arizona. It saves the state lots of money,” ICE spokesman Vincent Picard said. Julie Myers, assistant secretary of homeland security for ICE, said rapists and murderers do not qualify for early deportation, and only those who could be paroled are considered. “People who are eligible for this program do not have significant criminal histories in Mexico or any other country,” she said. “For the worst of the worst, it’s absolutely imperative to keep them off any streets.” Among Arizona’s 38,300 inmates, 5,400 are designated criminal aliens, meaning they are in the country illegally or have valid visas but broke a law.