U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement representatives announced on Jan. 17 a new agreement with 17 Florida sheriffs aimed at preventing the release from jail of undocumented immigrants back into area communities.

  • Suspects to be held additional 48 hours for ICE
  • Sheriff's Office must receive ICE warrant
  • Agreement to expand over 2018

ICE Officials described the parameters of the agreement and its necessity during a news conference held at the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office. They pointed out that often when undocumented immigrants are arrested on a local criminal charge, they are released from custody before ICE agents can pick them up from the local jail.

The new agreement involves 17 sheriffs from Pinellas, Lee, Manatee, Bay, Walton, Hernando, Brevard, Polk, Indian River, Charlotte, Monroe, Sarasota, Columbia, Santa Rosa, Suwannee, Hillsborough and Pasco counties. They’ve agreed to hold these suspects for up to an additional 48 hours for ICE upon receiving an ICE warrant.

ICE will also pay these agencies to hold these suspects.

“This process will result in fewer criminal aliens released to the street. It’s as simple as that,” said ICE Deputy Director Thomas Homan. “The stronger our partnerships are with local law enforcement, the better we can execute ICE’s public safety mission and protect our communities.”

Since 2014, sheriffs had been hesitant to hold undocumented immigrants for ICE after they’d bailed out or completed their jail sentence because sheriff's offices were getting sued, ands several courts across the country had ruled the practice was unlawful.

They said this new agreement clarifies the undocumented immigrant is being held in these jurisdictions under federal authority, and affords local law enforcement liability protection from potential litigation.

“For years, sheriffs have had to choose between releasing criminal illegal aliens from their jails back into the community, or exposing themselves to potential civil liability," said Major County Sheriffs of America Treasurer and Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri. "Both choices are unacceptable, and that is why the Basic Ordering Agreement model being unveiled today is the linchpin in allowing us to faithfully execute our public safety duties.”

ICE is instituting the agreement with just the Florida 17 counties initially, but intends to gradually expand it implementation with willing law enforcement partners across the state and nation over the coming year.