SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - Department of Homeland Security Assistant Secretary for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Julie L. Myers and Puerto Rico's Secretary of Correction and Rehabilitation, Miguel Pereira, today signed a partnership agreement that will assist in ensuring that aliens serving criminal sentences are identified and processed for removal prior to their release from state custody.
"This pact represents a landmark in ICE's ongoing efforts to identify and remove criminal aliens from the country and it's a win-win for everyone," said Assistant Secretary Myers. "Not only will it speed the removal of deportable non-violent criminals from the United States, but it will also save taxpayers millions of dollars a year. I want to commend Secretary Pereira and his team at the Puerto Rico Department of Correction and Rehabilitation and the ICE team in the Florida field office for the extraordinary work they've done to bring this program to fruition. In Puerto Rico and across the country, ICE is teaming with state and local law enforcement agencies to develop innovative ways to address the potential public safety threat posed by criminal aliens."
"The signing of this agreement between ICE and the Puerto Rico Department of Correction and Rehabilitation is clear evidence of our commitment in Correction to find ways to do our jobs more efficiently in terms of security and safety as well as our excellent relationship with our partners in ICE," said Miguel Pereira, Puerto Rico Secretary of Correction and Rehabilitation. "Although security and public safety are our main objective, it is also true that we should always look for cost effective ways to do our jobs and Rapid REPAT provides for both."
The agreement, called Rapid REPAT (Removal of Eligible Parolees Accepted for Transfer), is part of ICE ACCESS (Agreements of Cooperation in Communities to Enhance Safety and Security), the umbrella of services that provide local law enforcement agencies opportunities to team with ICE to combat specific public safety challenges.
Under Rapid REPAT, certain aliens who are incarcerated in state prison and who have been convicted of non-violent offenses may receive early conditional release from incarceration if they have a final order of removal and agree not to return to the United States. Only aliens convicted of non-violent offenses are eligible for the program and they must agree to waive appeal rights associated with their state conviction(s) and must cooperate fully with their removal. If an alien re-enters the United States after being removed under this program, state statutes may provide for revocation of parole and confinement for the remainder of the alien's original criminal sentence. Additionally, aliens may be prosecuted under federal statutes that provide for up to 20 years in prison for illegally reentering the United States.
Rapid REPAT was modeled after two programs in the states of New York and Arizona that capitalize on ICE's ability to more effectively identify and ultimately remove criminal aliens from the United States while still preserving the integrity of the criminal justice system. The Puerto Rico agreement is the first under the new program. The programs in Arizona and New York have resulted in significant cost savings for both states. Between January 1995 and September 2007, the State of New York realized more than $140 million in combined savings. Between April 2005 and August 2007, the state of Arizona saved more than $18 million.
According to Puerto Rico officials, foreign nationals make up more than 2 percent of their prison population. Through Rapid REPAT, it is estimated that between 50 and 60 non-violent aliens will qualify for the program each year. This could save the tax payers an estimated $2.5 million annually.