San Diego Speaks: Deporting Illegal Immigrants from California Prisons
Download this video (10.6 MB, MP4 format)
June 26, 2009 – KPBS reporter Sharon Heilbrunn asks San Diegans if they agree with Governor Schwarzenegger's proposal to deport undocumented immigrants from state prisons.
JOANNE FARYON (Host): Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is considering a plan to deport illegal immigrants from California state prisons. The plan would save the state millions. KPBS digital reporter Sharon Heilbrunn has the story. SHARON HEILBRUNN (Reporter): This is Donovan State Correctional Facility in Otay Mesa, just a couple exits north of the Mexico/US border. There are nearly 5,000 inmates here, about 200 illegal immigrants. East of here is Centinela State Prison in Imperial County. 4,200 inmates, one out of every six is an illegal immigrant. Their sentences could be cut short if Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has his way. He's proposed turning over state prisoners who are illegal immigrants to federal authorities for deportation. According to officials, the move would save almost $200 million for a state that faces an estimated budget gap of more than $24 billion. But authorities warn a mass release of prisoners from California and other states could swamp an already crowded federal system. The majority of illegal immigrant inmates at Centinela are from Mexico, but a spokesperson points out, they arrive from all over the world. If this plan moves forward, about 19,000 California inmates will be deported, and they probably won't serve additional prison time once they are sent home. Those who have committed violent crimes will not be eligible for early release, according to state officials. We wanted to know what you think of this plan. Here's what people had to say: BILL HILSDORF: Yeah, I think it would be a good idea, but there's also the danger that they might just sneak right back across the border. But I think it will save the state some money. ERIC MITCHELL: Yeah, if we're looking to save money, I think we need to send the folks back, because the fact they're here illegally should almost trump the fact of whatever other thing they did. Now, if it's a justice thing, then I think we should keep them in our prisons, because more than likely we send them back, their prison system is not going to keep them in, they're gonna just let them go, so more than likely they'll head back, and then they'll be on our streets and we won't know where they are, so. LYNNETTE COVARRUBIAS: Oh no, I think that's a great way to send money back, I mean they're already here illegally, so you might as well use that money and save it and spent it on someone else, maybe another way. SHARON HEILBRUNN: Now, officials in other states, including Oregon and Washington, are also considering similar deportation moves from their state prisons. We want to know if you think this is a good idea. Log onto kpbs.org/sdweek and leave us a comment. For kpbs.org, I'm Sharon Heilbrunn.