The Houston Chronicle Monday October 31, 2011 by Susan Carroll
The state has been unable to enforce a new law designed to increase the deportations of illegal immigrants from the Texas prison system amid concerns that federal immigration officials are unprepared to handle the anticipated influx of convicted criminals, state officials said.
Under the new law, which was scheduled to take effect Sept. 1, state prisoners who are granted parole and turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials must either be deported or leave the country voluntarily - or risk being returned to state custody to serve out the remainder of their sentences...
ICE officials indicated this week that they need to hire a "few" more agents to process the expected increase in deportable prisoners coming out of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, but they have not indicated how many, Madden said.
He added that the state does not yet have a timeline for implementing the law. "Before we implement it, we need to make sure ICE will be able to handle the load we would possibly be sending them," Madden said.
ICE spokesman Gregory Palmore said the agency will work with the state and provide additional manpower and bed space if needed.
He said ICE has already absorbed a sharp uptick in the number of prisoners released from TDCJ custody - up about 28 percent since Oct. 1, the start of the fiscal year, compared with the same time period last year.
But ICE union officials in Texas warned that their operation in Huntsville, which processes state prisoners for deportation, is "treading water."
"If the state of Texas doubles or triples their releases on a given day, there is no way we will be able to keep up," said Tre Rebstock, president of the local ICE union.