Fla. to deport 500 immigrants it says are crowding prisons

April 08, 1994|By Knight-Ridder News Service

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- About 500 undocumented immigrants in Florida's overcrowded prisons are to be released and deported under an agreement that Gov. Lawton Chiles and federal immigration authorities plan to announce today.

This unprecedented contract to remove hundreds of foreign citizens from a state's prison system and return them to their home countries comes after weeks of negotiations between Tallahassee and Washington. The governor and U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service reached agreement on a five-page memo of understanding last night.

"Our first priority is to make Florida safer," Mr. Chiles said yesterday. "This agreement gives us the ability to expedite the deportation of hundreds of nonviolent criminal aliens in our prisons, to use those cells to lock up additional violent criminals and to save taxpayers' dollars."

The governor and Cabinet are agreeing to grant conditional commutations of sentences to about 500 nonviolent inmates.

"That's the equivalent of a prison for us," said Tom Herndon, the governor's chief of staff. "We'll start moving this pretty quickly. We should be in a position by summertime of seeing these people moving at a pace."

Their clemency is conditional. The inmates must leave the country.

The INS is agreeing to take custody of the prisoners and to deport them.

Because the United States has no relations with Cuba, none of the 700 inmates who came to the state from the Mariel boatlift of 1980 will be deported.

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