Legal Immigrants Working in Texas Prisons

The Texas prison system is in need of more than two thousand workers and some of those vacancies are being filled by legal immigrant workers.

Critics say it's a safety concern to have people from other countries protecting prisons.

Many legislators say they may soon change the policy that allows immigrant workers to be hired.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice says there are at least 30 correctional officers throughout the state on temporary work visas.

But the TDCJ says they are filling a role that is badly needed.

"Right now we have an officer shortage of about 2600," said Michelle Lyons the Director of Public Information for the TDCJ. "This is not a situation where we have people coming in and taking jobs that are displacing citizens."

"This is something that I don't think anyone was immediately aware of because there were no rules or laws dealing with it," said Senator Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo.

The TDCJ is asking for $450 million from the legislature to fill the job vacancies.

" To a very real extent our staffing problems have to do with income," said Seliger who serves on both the budget and criminal justice committees.

"Will there be money to do it? I think it should be one of the states priorities," Seliger said. "The important thing is to make sure those 156 thousand people stay securely behind those fences and the people in our communities feel safe and protected as long as they are there."

Senator Seliger says if the public speaks up then their may be a policy change for immigrant workers in prisons. The TDCJ says the workers with visa's have never posed a problem, and they go through all the same training and background checks as a normal officer.