Florida sheriff departments strike deal with federal officials to detain illegal immigrants

Seventeen Florida sheriffs’ departments struck an agreement with federal immigration officials on Wednesday aimed at cracking down on illegal immigration and enhancing public safety.

The plan, which received support from the National Sheriffs’ Association and the Major County Sheriffs of America, permits law enforcement to detain illegal immigrants held on criminal charges for up to 48 hours past their release date, allowing federal officials to claim the person, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The new deal will also circumvent current federal court rulings that allow local law enforcement to be sued if they detain people strictly on immigration violations because the inmate will be a federal detainee – similar to how local jails hold people for the Drug Enforcement Administration, FBI or U.S. Marshals Service.  

Previously, the courts said detaining the immigrants violated their constitutional rights against illegal search and seizures.

"This is not about people who are simply here illegally," said Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri. "This is not about politics and illegal immigration."

Under the new deal, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will have to present the proper paperwork to jail officials: a detainer request based on a probable cause finding; an arrest warrant; and a booking form to allow the local jail personnel to rebook the inmate on the ICE warrant.

The plan comes during a time of contention with the Trump administration and local law enforcement over “sanctuary” policies aimed at limiting local police cooperation with federal authorities.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.