OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — An Oklahoma lawmaker who wrote one of the strongest state immigration laws in the nation is continuing his fight against illegal immigration with legislation that authorizes the deportation of illegal immigrant prison inmates.

A measure authored by Republican Rep. Randy Terrill authorizes state prison officials to hand over nonviolent illegal immigrants in state prisons who have served at least one-third of their sentences to federal immigration officials for deportation.

Terrill said the program, crafted after successful programs in other states, will save the state millions of dollars in incarceration costs and free up prison beds for more violent offenders at a time when the state faces a $900 million budget shortfall and a prison population that is almost at capacity.

“I absolutely believe that the federal government has fallen down on its responsibility to protect our borders,” said Terrill, of Moore. “As a consequence of this they have functionally turned every state into a border state.”

The tide of illegal immigrants has forced states to pick up the tab for education, health care and public safety costs “that they should not have had to bear,” he said.

Since 2006, Terrill has championed legislation to prevent undocumented immigrants from receiving state benefits and jobs.

Legislation written by Terrill that was passed in 2007 eliminated an illegal immigrant’s ability to obtain public benefits and gave state and local law enforcement the ability to enforce immigration law, including detaining illegals until they are deported.

It also imposed new requirements on employers to verify the immigration status and employment eligibility of their workers and penalized those who willfully hired illegal immigrants. A federal judge blocked employment provisions in the bill after they were challenged by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a ruling that is on appeal.

In addition to the deportation measure, Terrill sponsored other bills passed this year to end Spanish language driver’s license tests and require that all official actions of the state be conducted in English, measures that critics said targeted Latino immigrants.

“Illegal immigration is a huge and growing problem in the United States and Oklahoma,” said Terrill, whose legislation and frequent public appearances in other states where illegal immigration is being debated has made him a national figure in the immigration reform movement.

“There’s nothing wrong with a little notoriety as long as it’s for a good purpose,” Terrill said. “My hope is that I’m doing right by the taxpayers.”

Terrill said the deportation bill will require the federal government to pay the cost of housing illegal immigrant offenders until they are processed for deportation.

“The state is bearing an awful lot of the cost because of the federal government not doing its job,” Terrill said.

Figures distributed earlier this year indicate there are 511 illegal immigrants in state prisons cells and that 69 percent of them are eligible for the deportation program. A total of 230 offenders would be immediately eligible for deportation and another 124 would be eligible next year.

Housing a state inmate costs about $19,800 a year, so the state would save more than $4 million in incarceration costs in the program’s first year. Terrill said the Department of Corrections can use the savings to pay for unfunded increases in operational costs.

Another 157 illegal immigrants are serving prison sentences for violent crimes and are ineligible for the program.

Passed by the Legislature last month, it was signed into law by Gov. Brad Henry earlier this month and goes into effect July 1.

A DOC spokesman, Jerry Massie, said the agency is performing a final review of the illegal immigrant prison population and plans to notify federal Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agents to arrange their transfer.

“It’ll happen fairly quickly,” Massie said. “We already work with ICE on deportable detainees. But it’s usually when their sentence ends.”

On Monday, there were 25,222 state inmates including 18,261 who were being housed in state prisons — 99 percent of the state’s prison capacity, according to the DOC Web site.

“Other offenders who may very well be a greater risk can be moved in,” Terrill said.

A spokesman for ICE in Dallas, Carl Rusnok, said an illegal immigrant inmate who is deported but returns to the state can be sent back to prison to serve the remainder of his sentence. In the year that ended Sept. 30, he said 16,370 illegal immigrants were deported from north Texas and Oklahoma, including 4,600 who had criminal convictions.

Rusnok said similar programs in Arizona, New York and Puerto Rico have helped their prison systems cut back on incarceration costs for illegals.

“It helps remove some of the burden from the states, especially when we’re talking about nonviolent criminals,” Rusnok said.

In Arizona, where a deportation program was launched in 2005, a total of 2,508 illegal immigrant prisoners have been deported with a savings of more than $31 million, said Bill Lamoreaux, spokesman for the Arizona Department of Corrections.