Immigrant inmates: Status after their release is shielded
BY LEIGH BELL World Staff Writer
Thursday, July 12, 2007
A federal immigration official
wouldn't say this week what has happened to more than two dozen deportable immigrants recently released from
Oklahoma prisons after serving time
for crimes including first-degree rape,
drug trafficking and lewd molestation.
The state Department of Corrections
provided a list of foreign-born inmates
released during May and June to the
At least 25 of them were supposed to
face Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the federal agency that imposes immigration detainers.
Officials were unable to verify that,
saying it would be an "administrative
burden" to give the status of each of the
The task would be too time-consuming, said Carl Rusnok, a spokesman for the immigration agency.
Asked to give the status of 27 released inmates, he said it would take
too long to get the information unless
he had the alien identification number
for each. Such numbers are not public.
"No federal agency can or should provide them to the public or media," Rusnok said.
The status on each detainee
can be obtained through a
Freedom of Information Act
request, he said.
At the request of the Tulsa
World, the agency did provide
information on three "deportable detainees" convicted of
the harshest or most numerous crimes.
One was deported to Mexico on June 1. Another is to be
deported to Vietnam, and the
third, a legal permanent resident, will go before an immigration judge.
Immigration officials can
place detainers on state prisoners who are illegal immigrants or legal permanent residents who are convicted of
aggravated felonies or certain
crimes against children.
The Corrections Department's report on those with
immigration detainers does
not distinguish between illegal
immigrants and legal permanent residents.
Records show that 27 deportable detainees were released from prison in May and
June, but two of them were not
listed as having been released
to immigration officials.
It's likely that the immigration detainer was lifted from
those two while they were in
prison, said Jerry Massie, a
Those with detainers are
handed over to immigration
officials after they serve their
Rusnok said each illegal immigrant who served time for
an aggravated felony is processed for deportation and is
returned to his or her home
Legal permanent residents,
however, have the right to
face an immigration judge before any deportation can be ordered.
Some of the released prisoners with immigration detainers are on probation, but that
should not affect immigration
proceedings, Rusnok said.
Immigration officials most
often pick up deportable detainees from prison when
their sentences are finished,
but prisons must notify the
agency of the release, he said.
"It would be nice if all jails
let us know," he said. "It would
be nice to tour all the facilities.
We just don't have the resources for that."
Massie said the Corrections
Department's policy is to notify immigration officials when
an inmate with an immigration
detainer is to be released.
Federal law allows prisons
to hold inmates with detainers
for two days after a sentence is
served, to give immigration officials time to take custody of
"They (immigration officials) have been pretty good
about that," Massie said.
Although more than two
dozen deportable detainees
were released from prison in
May and June, more than 50
others were admitted, prison
During the same period, detainers were placed on an additional 21 inmates.
Foreign-born people account for 4.5 percent of Oklahoma's 3.4 million residents,
and slightly more than 1 percent of the state's prisoners.
The state expects to spend
nearly $8 million during fiscal
year 2007 to incarcerate the
prisoners, an earlier report by
the Corrections Department
The department has custody of roughly 56,000 inmates,
including 31,000 on probation
Massie said the numbers of
inmates with immigration detainers have remained fairly
Because the Corrections
Department is crunched for
money and space, it asked the
state parole board to create a
separate docket for deportable
detainees convicted of nonviolent crimes.
The request was rejected,
and it will not be resubmitted,
Leigh Bell 581-8465