Sheriff Jim Alderden of Larimer County, Co., was unhappy that illegal immigrants who landed in his jail for minor crimes were later released into the community and never deported, the New York Times reports. They had been arrested for crimes like drunken driving or striking a spouse. Immigration agents said they had neither time nor resources to pick up the illegal immigrants whose violations were not serious.
Across the nation, says the Times, local law enforcement officials and irritated taxpayers are turning up the pressure on federal immigration authorities to identify illegal immigrants who are behind bars and deport them after they are freed. Now, some federal agents are allowing local authorities to screen immigrants to help detect those who should be deported. In 2005, at least 270,000 illegal immigrants spent time in local jails and state prisons. In federal prisons, more than 35,000 inmates, 19 percent of the total, were immigrants. The inspector general of the Homeland Security Department has estimated that in the coming year 302,000 immigrants who should be deported on release would be sent to local jails and state prisons. Based on recent deportation results, the inspector general predicted that most of those immigrants would be freed here.