The Arizona House gave preliminary approval Thursday for a proposal to have a private prison built in Mexico to house undocumented immigrants now incarcerated in Arizona, reports the Associated Press. The idea was promoted as a way to reduce the state’s heavy costs in imprisoning the 3,600 to 4,000 immigrants in Arizona prisons who have been convicted of crimes. Opponents questioned whether this approach would save money and whether the state has the legal authority to move the foreign prisoners to Mexico.
The bill is one of many moving through the Legislature that tries to confront the problems caused by illegal immigration. More than any other state in recent years, Arizona has been dogged by a heavy flow of undocumented immigrants after the government tightened enforcement in El Paso and San Diego during the mid-1990s. The Mexico prison idea was proposed in the 1990s but shelved, partly due to legal concerns. It was revived in 2003 to help cover budget shortfalls but was rejected by a key legislative committee.