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DOJ: More Than Half Of Non-Citizen Prison Inmates Could Be Deported

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Will Racke Immigration and Foreign Policy Reporter
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The Department of Justice released Tuesday its latest figures on incarcerated aliens, revealing just how much of the U.S. federal prison population is currently subject to deportation.

Overall, there are 45,493 foreign-born inmates in the federal system, of which 41,554 are non-citizens.

DOJ says 54 percent of those non-citizen inmates have been issued final orders of removal. In other words, federal authorities could reduce the prison population by 22,541 prisoners — immediately — if they had the ability to deport those aliens all at once.

The average annual cost of incarcerating a single federal prisoner is about $32,000, according to a Bureau of Prisons report.

Under President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration enforcement, DOJ must collect data and provide quarterly reports on the immigration status of all aliens in the federal prison system. The department shares on a daily basis the identifying information of federal prisoners with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which uses the data to make a determination about the immigration status of each inmate.

In addition to the 54 percent of alien prisoners who have been issued orders of removal, another 33 percent — 13,886 inmates — are under ICE investigation for possible deportation.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has made the expedited removal of criminal aliens from the prison system a DOJ priority. He expanded a program in March that uses in-person and video conference immigration hearings to determine whether criminal aliens, regardless of legal status, should be deported immediately upon completion of their sentences. (RELATED: Sessions Moves To Quickly Deport Imprisoned Immigrants)

“Illegal aliens who commit additional crimes in the United States are a threat to public safety and a burden on our criminal justice system,” Sessions said in a statement on Tuesday. “This is why we must secure our borders through a wall and effective law enforcement, and we must strengthen cooperation between federal, state and local governments as we strive to fulfill our sacred duty of protecting and serving the American people.”

The figures in the DOJ report cover only federal prisoners, as the federal government does not currently have a program that collects data about the immigration status of aliens incarcerated in state prisons and local jails.

DOJ says it is “in the process” of establishing a state and local data collection program through the department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics.

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