Politics & Government

Schwarzenegger will commute fewer sentences for imprisoned illegal immigrants, aide says

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's administration said Tuesday that the governor will not commute the sentences of thousands of illegal immigrant inmates even though majority Democrats sent him a budget bill this week that assumes he will do so.

As part of a special session on the state budget, the Legislature on Monday sent Schwarzenegger bills that Democrats said would solve roughly $2.3 billion of the state's $19.9 billion budget deficit.

One proposed reduction was $182 million in the next fiscal year based on Schwarzenegger commuting the sentences of illegal immigrant inmates and handing them to federal officials for deportation.

That figure is based on an estimate Schwarzenegger gave the Legislature in last year's budget, assuming the governor would commute the sentences of up to 8,500 noncitizen inmates.

Schwarzenegger officials now say that the previous figure was vastly overstated. They said Tuesday that the governor plans to commute sentences for only 850 illegal immigrants between now and June 2011. His Department of Finance believes the state will save about $19 million rather than $182 million.

As of Dec. 31, the state had 22,173 inmates with an immigration hold or a likely immigration hold – 13 percent of all prisoners. The governor is considering for commutation only those with one felony for a nonviolent, nonsexual and non-serious crime.

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