ICE Provides Local Police a Way to Work Around ‘Sanctuary’ Policies, Act as Immigration Officers

Sheriff’s offices and police departments in jurisdictions that provide “sanctuary” to undocumented immigrants will have a new way to work with federal authorities to detain and deport them, immigration authorities said Monday.

The new Warrant Service Officer program, introduced Monday in Pinellas County on Florida’s Gulf Coast, will allow participating sheriffs and police departments “the flexibility to make immigration arrests,” according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The move would allow local authorities to detain criminal suspects beyond the point at which they would have been otherwise released if ICE has requested their detention, essentially giving ICE an extra 48 hours to take them into federal custody.

Selected sheriff’s-office personnel “will be nominated, trained, and approved by ICE to perform certain limited functions of an immigration officer,” within the local jail or correctional facilities, according to a Memorandum of Agreement signed by the agency and Pinellas County on Monday.

ICE framed the new program as a countermeasure to “sanctuary cities” across the United States that acting director Matthew Albence said “undermine public safety” by adopting policies of non-cooperation with federal immigration authorities. President Trump has repeatedly blasted such jurisdictions, including San Francisco and New York City, where local authorities refuse to respect ICE requests to hold people in local jails on behalf of immigration officials.

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri on Monday echoed Trump in blaming sanctuary-city policies for crimes that he said would otherwise have been prevented. “Because the jail didn’t honor the detainer, a 65-year-old woman was raped,” Gualtieri said in reference to a Mexican national who had been deported at least 13 times before being convicted of violent assault in Oregon last year.

ICE already has extensive formal agreements — known as 287(g) agreements — with 75 U.S. cities and counties where local law enforcement agencies actively help ICE to arrest and detain people who are in the United States illegally. Those local agencies interview immigrants suspected of being in the country illegally about their citizenship status and use ICE training and computer technology to collaborate with the agency.

By Abigail Hauslohner for THE WASHINGTON POST
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