COLUMBIA -- The number of illegal immigrants housed by the South Carolina Department of Corrections has grown from 369 three years ago to 507.
There are nearly 23,000 state prison inmates, and of those who are here illegally, about 67 percent or 341 are from Mexico. The next largest group comes from Honduras and numbers 27. Twelve are from Guatemala, 11 are from Jamaica, nine are from East Germany, eight are from West Germany, eight are from Cuba, and then rest are from countries as remote as Afghanistan.
In that case, Farid Ahmad Maugal, 53, was living in Spartanburg when he was arrested in 1998 for or first degree criminal sexual conduct with a minor and subsequently racked up other sex-related convictions.
The Afghan national is serving a 30-year sentence in Perry Correctional Institution in Pelzer, said corrections spokesman Clark Newsom. His release date is at the end of 2029, and there are no plans to ask federal officials to intervene.
That’s the norm.
Federal officials do not step in and take custody when a convicted criminal is found to be an illegal alien, said Vincent Picard, spokesman for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement field office in Atlanta. ICE is part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security
“The criminal charges take precedence over immigration charges,” said Picard.
He said some states, including Arizona, operate a “rapid repatriation” program that allows them to release non-violent criminals early in order to save money.
In January, South Carolina’s new “Arizona-style” law goes into effect, requiring police to check the immigration status of anyone they detain for a non-immigration crime if the officer suspects the individual is in the country illegally.
On Oct. 31, the U.S. Department of Justice announced a challenge to the law on the grounds that it conflicts with federal law, diverts law enforcement resources, and other points.
Is the region’s ICE office ready to assist, if, as the new state law says, law enforcement drops off a suspected illegal alien on their doorstep or that of some other federal facility?
Picard declined to weigh in, noting that the agency does not comment on state legislation, especially when that legislation is subject to ongoing litigation.
There is money at stake, too. The new state law also says Uncle Sam must foot South Carolina’s bill.
If a suspect is found to be an illegal alien, says Act 69, the South Carolina jail keeper is supposed to send an invoice to the Department of Homeland Security for the prisoner’s housing, maintenance, transportation, and care.