After deportable immigrants serve their time, the parole board typically hands them over to federal authorities to handle deportation proceedings.
However, on Wednesday a legislative panel learned that sometimes those immigrants' home countries won't take them back.
Curtis Garner, chairman of the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole, told members of the Interim Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee that a few countries, such as Cuba, have no deportation agreement with the United States.
Deportation isn't automatic, Steve Branch, director of the Salt Lake City field office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, told the Deseret News.
In order to send a parolee to their native country, agents must obtain travel documents, he said. And, there's a handful of countries, such as Cuba, Cambodia and Laos, that won't provide those documents, Branch said.
Vietnam used to be on that list, but in January softened its stance and agreed to allow some of its citizens to be returned, he said.
Still, Branch says even though parolees can't be held indefinitely, being released doesn't mean they're free and clear.
"We just wait until conditions change with that foreign government," Branch said. "You always have that removal order."
And, he adds that depending on the severity of the crime, ICE has the discretion to monitor parolee immigrants through means such as ankle bracelets.
Lawmakers had wanted to hear from Branch but because of federal rules, he wasn't able to testify before the panel.
Garner told lawmakers that typically, illegal immigrants are treated the same as any other inmate up for parole. Even if they're deported they're placed on parole."It acts as a deterrent to re-entry," Garner said. "If someone does come back illegally, we can arrest them immediately and return them to prison."