Seventeen Florida law enforcement agencies announced “housing agreements” with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, allowing agents more time to pick up arrested undocumented immigrants from local jails.
The sheriff’s offices, including Manatee County, will hold these arrested undocumented immigrants for up to 48 hours after their scheduled release time under “basic ordering agreements,” as detailed during a press conference at the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office in Largo on Wednesday.
“We’re just trying to keep our community safe, and when you have a criminal illegal alien who has been committing crimes in our community, they need to be held accountable,” Manatee Sheriff Rick Wells told the Bradenton Herald.
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The deal was created in conjunction with the National Sheriff’s Association, the Major County Sheriffs of America and ICE. After a federal court said in 2014 that sheriff’s offices holding arrested undocumented immigrants could violate a person’s Fourth Amendment rights, Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said law enforcement agencies often had to choose between “(victimizing) our communities” or risk civil rights lawsuits.
“We’ve had to come up with this solution because Congress has not acted and changed the laws that are necessary to close the gaps identified in the 2014 court decisions,” Gualtieri said.
The federal agency’s deputy director Thomas Homan said that 92 percent of the people the department deports either have an arrest record, a prior conviction, have illegally reentered the country or are fugitives.
ICE can issue an “order to detain or release alien” form in addition to either an “immigration detainer” form, a “warrant for arrest of alien” form or a “warrant for removal.” After the sheriff’s offices receive booking orders with probable cause from ICE, the 48-hour hold will take effect, Gualtieri said.
Law enforcement agencies would just be providing a service and be reimbursed up to $50 for each detention.
Gualtieri noted that this particular announcement wasn’t about the immigration debate as a whole, referring to undocumented immigrants who have not committed crimes, but those who have. It’s an issue of public safety, he said, and local officials would be affording ICE agents the opportunity to start the deportation process in a safe setting.
ICE intends to expand the pilot program after implementing it in the 17 counties. Bay, Brevard, Charlotte, Columbia, Hernando, Hillsborough, Indian River, Lee, Monroe, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk, Santa Rosa, Sarasota and Suwannee counties are also participating.
Several examples were pointed to, including the case of Kate Steinle, who was hit by a ricochet bullet while walking in San Francisco. The accused shooter, Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, had been deported to Mexico from the U.S. five times. In the Steinle case, he was recently found not guilty on charges of murder, assault with a deadly weapon and involuntary manslaughter.
Locally, one instance that came to Wells’ mind was when Bradenton Police Lt. William Weldon was gouged in the eyes by 23-year-old burglary suspect Isaac Hernandez-Dubon, of Honduras, while responding to an alarm.
The sheriff’s office also believes that a “basic ordering agreement” could have prevented Yosmin Amaya, also of Honduras, from being released before ICE could respond. Amaya pled no contest to a child abuse charge where adjudication was withheld after he had sex with a 12-year-old girl when he was “around 17 or 18” at the time, according to court documents, and was given four years of probation.
“We’re just holding these individuals based on the probable cause that ICE has,” Wells said. “Before, we couldn’t do that legally and this gives us the authority to legally hold illegal aliens and that’s what we took an oath of office to do.”
Gualtieri said he considered the move a “moral mandate because we need to do the right thing.”
“When it comes to criminal illegals, there should be no discussion. There should be no debate. There should be no hesitation. There should be no consideration, because they need to go. They need to stay gone. And we should all be committed to that,” Gualtieri said.