California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Monday offered yet another way California can save on incarcerating illegal immigrants: pay to build prisons in Mexico.
Schwarzenegger said in a Sacramento Press Club speech that rather than raise taxes, the state could find money by cutting pension costs, allowing offshore oil drilling and lowering prison expenditures.
His budget calls for an $880 million infusion from the federal government to pay for housing illegal immigrant prisoners who have committed crimes in California. The governor also wants to rely more on private prison companies.
But he also gave an off-the-cuff suggestion that California send undocumented inmates to Mexico and pay to build and run new prisons there.
"We can do so much better, in the prison system alone, if we can go and take inmates — for instance, the 20,000 inmates that are illegal immigrants that are here — and get them to Mexico," Schwarzenegger said.
"We pay them to build a prison down in Mexico and then we have those undocumented immigrants be down there in the prison," he added. "Half the cost to build the prisons and half the cost to run the prisons. That is money, again, a billion dollars right there that can go into higher education. That is an example of one of the things we do that is unnecessary spending."
Schwarzenegger's idea had not been vetted. The Governor's Office was unable to answer, for instance, whether he would like to send all illegal immigrant prisoners to Mexico or just those who have Mexican citizenship.
Schwarzenegger spokesman Aaron McLear said the governor as of now has no official plan to send prisoners to Mexico.
"It's an idea that people have mentioned to him," McLear said. "We need to spend less on prisons and more on higher education, and he thinks we ought to debate any creative solutions to do that."
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