State prisons
6:26 pm
Mon July 4, 2011

To save money, state deporting some prison inmates early

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Washington has begun to deport some prison inmates before their sentences are up. The new program is expected to save $2 million a year. But the deportations have immigrant rights advocates concerned.

The early deportation program is restricted to non-violent, non-sex offenders who already have a final deportation order from Immigration and Customs Enforcement or ICE. That means they would be deported anyway at the end of their sentence.

Some are in the country illegally, others are here on green cards but face deportation because of a felony conviction. The Washington prison system expects to send about 144 inmates a year back to their countries or origin.

So what's to keep them from coming back? The agency's Scott Blonien says as soon as the offender is handed over to ICE, a national arrest warrant is issued.

"So if law enforcement anywhere in the United States has contact with that offender after they've been deported, they're coming back to us to serve the balance of the sentence," Blonien said.

Although, he admits some will likely return to the U.S.

Immigrant rights advocates say some inmates with final deportation orders actually have avenues of appeal, but without a lawyer may unwittingly waive their legal rights.

On the Web:

ICE Criminal Alien Program

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