Staff and Wire Reports
BOLEY, OK -- Nearly two-dozen illegal immigrant inmates in state prison were turned over Thursday morning to federal authorities for deportation.
A group of 22 inmates were transferred Thursday from the John Lilley Correctional Center near Boley to the custody of sU.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Twenty of the inmates are from Mexico, one is from Guatemala and one is from El Salvador. They range in age from 20 to 61, and most have been convicted of drug crimes.
The inmates are eligible for transfer under a new state law because they were imprisoned for a nonviolent offense and already have served at least one-third of their prison sentences.
State Representative Randy Terrill of Moore was the author of the Criminal Illegal Alien Rapid Repatriation Act.
"For too long, Oklahoma's working families have paid the price for the federal government's failure to control our nation's borders. Now, thanks to the Criminal Illegal Alien Rapid Repatriation Act of 2009, the federal government will have to bear the financial burden created by these criminals who never should have been here in the first place," said Randy Terrill.
He says the program is being considered by other states around the country and he's proud Oklahoma is the first one to actually do it.State prison officials say a total of 181 inmates currently meet the criteria for deportation. So far, 32 have been turned over to customs agents.
The state Oklahoma pays about $20,000 each year to house each inmate. That means deporting them will save the state almost $7 million.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.