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March 01, 2005

Arizona left holding the bag

Formal deportation orders for 46 of the 526 illegal immigrant inmates, eligible for deportation, have been on file for several months, but Arizona prison officials can't get Immigration and Customs Enforcement to pick them up.

The drain on the state's prison system prompted Gov. Janet Napolitano to send an invoice to U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, requesting compensation for more than $118 million over the past 18 months. Napolitano demanded that the federal government pay up or take custody of the thousands of criminal illegal immigrants housed in Arizona prisons.

Each inmate costs the state $53.44 per day to house. The state recoups $17.12 of that through the federal government's State Criminal Alien Assistance Program.

Prison officials are saying the inaction by the Federal government is costing the state of Arizona $28,000 a day.

Arizona Department of Corrections Director Dora Schriro said deporting the criminals should be a "no-brainer" given the money that could be saved and the beds that could be freed in the state's overcrowded prison system.

Arizona officials are estimating that by the end of the year they will have an additional 590 inmates to de deported.

Under a 1996 state law, illegal immigrants convicted of certain felonies are eligible for deportation to Mexico after they complete 50 percent of their sentences, she said. The law applies to Class 3 through 6 felonies, involving "nondangerous, nonrepetitive" offenses, excluding sex crimes.

Last year, governor Janet Napolitano said, Arizona housed an average daily population of 3,642 criminal immigrants at an cost estimated at more than $71 million but received only about $9 million in federal reimbursement.

Posted by Jack Lewis at March 1, 2005 06:55 AM

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