Bureau of Prisons can't hold illegal immigrants after they have completed sentence for a separate federal offense.
There are 28,683 Mexican citizens being housed in U.S. federal prisons as of the most recent statistics, PJM has learned.
The figure represents the total number of inmates with Mexican citizenship in the custody of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Prisons as of July 30, 2016, out of the total 193,391 inmates. Mexican inmates are currently the second largest group of inmates based on citizenship of the total federal prison population at 14.8 percent, behind U.S. citizens at 77.8 percent.
In May, the number of Mexican citizens housed in federal prisons was higher at 29,371 out of 194,991 total inmates.
The bureau could not provide the specific number of inmates in their custody who are illegal immigrants.
Spokesman Justin Long told PJM that the U.S. Federal Bureau of Prisons does not have the authority to hold illegal immigrant prisoners after they have completed their sentence for a separate federal offense. Therefore, they are released into U.S. communities if Immigration and Customers Enforcement (ICE) does not take them into custody.
According to the spokesman, the existing “Treaty Transfer Program” only allows for inmates with immigration law violations in the U.S. to transfer to Mexico in certain circumstances. Inmates are required to request the transfer.
“Mexican inmates who are serving a sentence exclusively for Immigration Law Violations are not eligible for treaty transfer consideration, unless the sentence is absorbed by another current sentence and the time served to date is equal to or greater than the sentence imposed for the immigration offense,” he said.
Congressional committees have recently held hearings to examine ICE’s release of illegal immigrants housed in detention centers.
PJM asked the spokesman if the Federal Bureau of Prisons ever releases Mexican citizens who have committed crimes back into U.S. communities if Mexico does not accept them back.