Schwarzenegger wants to send illegal immigrant prisoners to Mexico - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Schwarzenegger wants to send illegal immigrant prisoners to Mexico

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(CBS) - California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger floated a novel, if unofficial, proposal Monday that could save the state $1 billion - build and operate prisons in Mexico to house undocumented inmates.

"We pay them to build the prisons down in Mexico and then we have those undocumented immigrants be down there in a prison. ... And all this, it would be half the cost to build the prisons and half the cost to run the prisons," Schwarzenegger told the Sacramento Press Club, according to a San Francisco Chronicle report.

Schwarzenegger predicted the savings could reach $1 billion, which could be spent on higher education.

According to the report, about 19,000 of the state's 171,000 prisoners are illegal immigrants. California spends more than $8 billion a year incarcerating felons.

But it remains to be seen whether the governor's remarks represent a legitimate policy proposal. Spokesman Aaron McLear told the Chronicle the comments didn't represent a concrete plan, but "a concept somebody mentioned to him." He also didn't say where Schwarzenegger came up with the $1 billion estimate.

Matthew Cate, the secretary of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, said the department was not pursuing any such proposal.

The idea quickly drew criticism.

"It would be like the state of California having a separate island of its own government in Mexico. It just seems like that would be impossible," Donald Specter, director of the Prison Law Office told the paper. Specter sued California on behalf of prisoners over poor health care conditions. The State is now under a federal court order to reduce its prison population by 40,000 over the next two years.

The prison guards' union also shot down the governor's plan.

"There are a number of reasons why it not only won't work, but shouldn't work," said union spokesman Lance Corcoran. "There is no obligation from a sovereign nation to incarcerate and rehabilitate individuals who have not committed crimes within their borders."

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