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FL DOC to Deport Aliens

Florida Governor Lawton Chiles announced on March 17, 1994, that he hopes to persuade federal immigration officials to let the state release foreign felons convicted of nonviolent crimes and then ship them home. The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) has identified 2,700 Florida state prisoners as undocumented immigrants, while the state DOC puts the number at more than 4,100.

Talks between the Governor's office and the INS are still in the preliminary stages. Under the plan, the state would grant clemency to nonviolent illegal immigrant convicts who agree to be deported or who already face deportation orders once they complete their prison sentences. The prisoners would then be tuned over to the INS and deported to their country of origin. If the illegal immigrants returned to Florida and were picked up by police, they would be returned to prison to serve the remainder of their prison sentences. No Cubans would be eligible because the United States does not have diplomatic relations with Cuba.

The deportation plan is expected to save the state millions of dollars it would otherwise spend to keep the illegal immigrants in prison. The federal officials quoted in the Seattle Times article of March 18, 1994, said Florida would be the first state to use such a plan to get rid of foreign prisoners and free-up prison space for American prisoners. Not mentioned in the article is the fact that Washington state has had a similar program for about a year which has not resulted in significant numbers of prisoners being deported.

The shortcomins to this type of plan is that because those affected are serving sentences for nonviolent property offenses their sentences are relatively short to begin with. By the time the necessary paperwork has been processed between federal and state agencies, which in Washington does not begin until the prisoner has reached his final destination within the DOC, they are close to release anyway. The result is that any savings are relatively small and likely offset by the increased bureaucratic expenses involved.

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