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Florida Sheriffs Partner With ICE To Legally Hold Undocumented Criminals

Pinellas County Sheriff  Bob Gualtieri
Julio Ochoa
WUSF Public Media
Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gaultieri announces a new partnership which will allow sheriffs from around the state to legally hold undocumented criminals for up to 48 hours so they can be deported.

A new partnership will allow sheriffs from around the state to legally hold undocumented criminals for up to 48 hours so they can be deported.

The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office and 16 other jurisdictions around the state will hold the inmates for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, known as ICE.

Under the partnership, ICE will issue warrants for criminals who are found to be in the country illegally after they are arrested by local law enforcement. The warrants will allow the sheriff’s to hold the inmates for ICE for two days.

Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gaultieri said the warrants are necessary after a federal court ruled in 2014 that local law enforcement could not hold people for ICE based on a civil immigration violation.

“We are not making that decision, Ice is making the decision within its authority,” Gaultieri said. “We are holding these people after ICE has made the decision because they have probable cause, they have a warrant and they are booking them into our jail.”

It’s no different than agreements sheriffs have to hold arrestees for other federal law enforcement agencies, including U.S. Marshals Service, the Drug Enforcement Agency and the FBI.

“This is a great day for the rule of law in this country and sends a message that local law enforcement is unified with our federal partners to lawfully ensure the removal of criminal aliens,” Gaultieri.

Gaultieri said ICE will consider the circumstances surrounding each inmate's arrest record to determine whether their crimes are serious enough for a warrant.

Gaultieri acknowledged that some may see the partnership as controversial. But, he said, it’s not about removing law abiding undocumented immigrants who have committed no crimes.

“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,” he said. “They need to go and they need to stay gone and we should all be committed to that.”

ICE will pay the sheriff's office up to $50 for housing the prisoners, who can be released on bond if they are not picked up within 48 hours.

Seventeen Florida sheriff's offices will begin the partnership immediately with others around the state and country joining later, Gaultieri said.  

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