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Oregon Offers Early Release to Illegal Immigrants Who Consent to Deportation

Seeking to cut costs in the face of a recession that has forced many states to reconsider their criminal justice priorities, Oregon officials have signed a memorandum of understanding with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), under which illegal immigrants who waive their right to contest deportations will have their prison sentences commuted and then be quickly returned to their home countries.

The program is available only to offenders who have less than six months remaining on their sentences and have not been convicted of a violent crime, sexual offense or any crime identified in a provision of state law known as “Measure 11.” Aside from having to waive their right to challenge deportation proceedings, prisoners who agree to take part in the early release program also face stiff penalties – a 20-year federal prison sentence – if they are caught in the United States again illegally.

According to state records, as of January 2010 there were 206 prisoners eligible to participate in the early release and deportation program; of those, the vast majority were Mexican nationals. About 1,200 illegal immigrants are held in the state’s prison system.

Oregon hopes to save $2.1 million by transferring 175 prisoners to ICE over a period of two years. There was a delay in implementing the program because federal authorities said Oregon’s constitution bars sentences from being set aside without a court hearing or a commutation from the governor. The delay was described as a “glitch” by state officials. Un-der legislation authorizing the early release program, the governor will commute the sentences of illegal immigrants who agree to deportation.

Last year, PLN reported a similar arrangement between Arizona and ICE officials. [See: PLN, April 2009, p.48]. Other states that participate in the early release and deportation program include Georgia and Rhode Island.

Source: The Oregonian

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