Years ago, when Texas looked for ways to ease prison crowding, lawmakers had a master stroke: Deport the few thousand foreign citizens who were in Texas prisons most of them from Mexico and free up those bunks for the growing number of local felons. More recently, reports the Austin American-Statesman, proposals were floated to build or lease prisons in Mexico, or even on a Caribbean island, for the same purpose. The ideas went nowhere, but with the population of foreign citizens in Texas prisons at an all-time high and with a state budget crisis looming in 2011, the idea of deporting some percentage of them – at least the nonviolent offenders – is again making the rounds, but with a new twist.
“It could mean a lot of jobs, economic development, because the federal government will have to find a place to put them before they deport them,” said state Sen. Eddie Lucio, who is championing a two-part plan to empty state prisons of many of the nearly 11,400 foreign nationals by turning them over to federal officials for deportation. He said the feds would need more holding facilities for the soon-to-be deported criminals and that federal money might pay for them and the jobs they would they create. Some state officials question whether federal funding would be available for the large-scale deportations. Other states from Florida to California are considering similar proposals to deport foreign citizens to cut prison budgets. In Oklahoma, where a law was passed last year to deport some nonviolent prisoners who are in the United States illegally, officials say it has worked well so far.