Sometime between October 30 and November 2, something unprecedented will happen at the nation’s federal prisons: the largest one-time release of federal prisoners in U.S. history.
The first 6,000 of an expected 46,000 federal prison inmates will be released in that four day window. It’s the result of a downward revision in mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenders, a change that’s being made retroactively.
According to the Washington Post, 2,000 inmates – one-third of the first to be released – are, in the words of a justice department official, “foreign citizens who will be quickly deported.”
A.J. “Andy” Louderback, Sheriff of Jackson County, Texas and Legislative Director of the Sheriff’s Association of Texas, is raising a red flag. He says sheriffs across the state are always going to be concerned at the local level whenever there’s this type of action by the federal government.
“When the federal government states that they’re gonna release a third of [the prisoners] – which are foreign nationals – and says that they’re gonna be quickly deported, well that’s in direct conflict with the federal program called Priority Enforcement that’s in place right now,” Louderback says. “We know already that criminal illegal aliens here in the United States are not being deported.”
Louderback says the Priority Enforcement Program (PEP), under the U.S. Department of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, “completely dismantles the immigration system” for undocumented immigrants in the U.S. “They prioritizing essentially zero or none for deportation, who’ve committed a crime here in the state and in all the states here in this country,” he says.
So while the Justice Department might be saying one thing, the rules at the Department of Homeland Security say another.
“It’s a direct conflict,” Louderback says. “We have now 2,000 convicted felons in the federal system that they’re saying that are gonna be quickly deported. First – I’d have to know what they mean by ‘quickly.’ Second – they’d have to prove that they are actually gonna be deported. Because under PEP, they’re probably not deportable at all.”
Louderback says he’s also concerned that the federal government is labeling these offenders as nonviolent. He says he’s not sure that’s an apt description.
Listen to the full interview in the audio player above.