Stats on the undocumented in NY prison system
Given the level of interest in this issue, I thought I’d provide more statistics here. The 2007 Criminal Justice Crimestat Report, available on this page, details DOCS’ existing efforts to see that prisoners who are subject to deportation are not released back into the community after completing their sentences. The information is in a section titled “Criminal Alien Improvements.”
Here are two charts also provided by the department. The first shows that the number of foreign-born inmates has decreased substantially over the last five years. The second breaks down the number of foreign-born inmates by immigration status:
These figures do not include inmates held at county or city jails. Note that under immigration law, it’s not just illegal immigrants who can be deported. Green-card holders convicted of certain crimes may also be placed in deportation proceedings.
Ball says his legislation targets criminals who fall through the cracks and evade deportation after their sentences are complete. I asked DOCS whether they had any idea how many inmates might be missed by their efforts, and they had no information on that. They did call Ball’s plan a waste of taxpayer money, saying they already work extensively with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. My story is attached below.
April 19, 2008
Ball immigration bill opposed by state prison officials
By Leah Rae
The Journal News
Assemblyman Greg Ball says his new immigration enforcement bill is a pragmatic step that targets only criminals, but one of the major players in his proposal, the state Department of Correctional Services, is not interested.
The bill calls for training state police, county sheriff departments and state correction officers to take on the duties of identifying and deporting foreign-born criminals under a deal with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
â€œWe feel that it would be a waste of state taxpayersâ€™ money for us to do this training when we already have well-trained federal investigators through ICE, who are basically at our disposal if we need them and do this kind of work all the time for us,â€ department spokesman Erik Kriss said.
Under an existing program, ICE investigates inmates flagged by prison personnel as being foreign born and handles the proceedings from there, Kriss said.
The prison system released 9,851 foreign-born criminals to ICE custody from 2002 to 2007 for either deportation or a transfer to federal custody, the department said.
Ball, R-Carmel, who is presenting his plan this afternoon in a scheduled three-hour forum at the Mahopac Public Library, said some sex offenders and violent criminals fall through the cracks.
â€œThis bill focuses specifically on criminal illegal aliens. Thereâ€™s nobody that should be in opposition to this piece of legislation,â€ Ball said. He added that â€œ30 percent of the prison populations are criminal illegal aliens in our state prisons.â€
The Department of Correctional Services said the figure is actually 4 percent.
At the end of 2007, there were 2,375 illegal aliens among New Yorkâ€™s 62,599 prisoners. The entire foreign-born population in the system â€” including permanent residents, undocumented aliens and citizens â€” was 6,527 prisoners, about 10 percent of the total.
And the numbers of foreign born in the system are declining. The departmentâ€™s statistics show that while the prison population has fallen by 6 percent overall in the past five years, the foreign-born component has declined by 21 percent. The numbers do not include inmates at county jails.
Kriss said the stateâ€™s program not only removed criminals from the country but saved more than $140 million in prison expenses by deporting nonviolent offenders before their initial parole hearing.
Under immigration laws, itâ€™s not just the undocumented who are subject to deportation, but also permanent residents convicted of certain crimes. Several state and county correction agencies have undergone so-called 287(g) training to help screen and process inmates for deportation.
There was no comment on the bill from state police or the governorâ€™s office. State Police Sgt. Kern Swoboda said troopers undergo training on what their responsibilities are when they encounter someone they suspect is undocumented.
â€œTheyâ€™re handled on a case-by-case basis, and a lot of it has to do with the circumstances behind the case,â€ Swoboda said.
Ballâ€™s Assembly bill calls for an agreement between the Attorney Generalâ€™s office and ICE that provides for, among other things:
â€¢ A request that ICE perform monthly searches of the stateâ€™s registered sex offender list to locate criminal aliens.
â€¢ A bar on local â€œsanctuary lawsâ€ that inhibit police from contacting ICE when they take an undocumented person into custody.
â€¢ Requiring contractors and subcontractors doing business with the state to verify their employeesâ€™ immigrant status through the federal E-Verify database.
â€¢ Having all law enforcement officials take steps to determine the immigration status of all non-citizens under investigation or taken into custody, â€œand notifying federal authorities of all illegal immigrants discovered as a result of such investigations.â€
Opponents of such measures argue that immigration is best left to federal enforcers, partly because police need the trust of immigrants as victims and witnesses.
â€œPolitically, itâ€™s a â€˜fear buttonâ€™ that people push,â€ said Christopher St. Lawrence, supervisor in Ramapo. He opposes the initiative in Suffern, a village within the town, to have village police take on an immigration role. The village of Brewster in Putnam County is pitching a similar plan.
Ed Kowalski, a Ball supporter with the group 9/11 Families for a Secure America, said the bill borrows a combination of similar practices in states like Alabama, Rhode Island and Virginia.
Virginia has teamed up with federal officials to identify and deport foreign-born convicts listed on the sex offender registry. A Rhode Island executive order requires companies doing business with the state to check their employees’ immigration status. And ICE currently has 287(g) agreements with the Alabama state police, the Arizona corrections department and dozens of other agencies. There is no such program as yet in New York.”It’s a very, very common-sense measure,” Kowalski said. “This is about identifying criminals. This is not about targeting immigrants.”