OKLAHOMA CITY – Illegal aliens in state prisons could soon face federal deportation, saving the state of Oklahoma millions of dollars.

House Bill 2245, by state Rep. Randy Terrill, would allow the Department of Corrections to send illegal alien inmates to the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The bill’s provisions apply only to criminals who are incarcerated for nonviolent crimes who have served at least half their sentence in state prison.

 "The Illegal Alien Rapid Repatriation Act will shift the financial burden of imprisoning these criminals from the state to the federal government where it belongs," said Terrill, R-Moore. "The immediate cost savings for the state would be more than $3 million."

There are 166 offenders currently in state prisons that would be immediately eligible for transfer to federal facilities. The state currently pays about $20,000 per day to house each inmate, meaning the immediate annual cost savings would be more than $3 million.

Under the bill, the federal government would pay to house those offenders until they are processed for deportation.

"I think the bill is a good mechanism to relieve some of the state cost burden for holding short-term, non-violent deportable detainees,” said Justin Jones, director of the state Department of Corrections. “At the same time, this will not compromise public safety.”

Jones noted federal immigration officials currently wait to pick up inmates for deportation until they have completed their entire sentence.

There are currently 511 illegal aliens in state prisons with 69 percent of those criminals

 eligible for the proposed deportation program. (The other 157 are incarcerated for violent crimes and are therefore ineligible.)

 In addition to the 166 inmates immediately eligible for deportation under the bill, another 188 illegal alien inmates should be eligible by the end of the next fiscal year.

Under the bill, any inmate shifted to federal custody who later illegally re-enters Oklahoma after his release would be required to serve the remainder of his state sentence in an Oklahoma prison, in addition to facing 20 years for immigration violations under federal law.

A similar law has been approved in Arizona with “much success,” Terrill noted.

“This is a common-sense approach to dealing with criminal illegal aliens,” Terrill said. “These criminals are in Oklahoma because of the failure of the federal government, so it’s only right that the feds share in the cost of their incarceration and facilitate their rapid deportation.”

House Bill 2245 passed unanimously out of the House Appropriations and Budget Subcommittee on Judiciary and Public Safety today. It now goes to the full House Appropriations and Budget Committee and then to the House floor.