Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced on Monday a new program that allows local law enforcement officers to enforce immigration detainer requests even if the officers are prohibited from cooperating with ICE due to state and local policies.
The new program — dubbed the Warrant Service Officer (WSO) program — allows local jurisdictions that join the program to "be temporarily exempted from any local or state rules preventing them from cooperating in immigration arrests or detention, and allow them to execute arrest warrants issued by ICE," according to The Hill.
"Once a WSO officer serves an administrative warrant and executes an arrest on behalf of ICE, the agency has 48 hours to conduct a transfer of custody unless an Intergovernmental Service Agreement exists," ICE said in a statement. "If ICE does not take the alien into custody within 48 hours, the individual must be released. WSO officers will only make arrests within the confines of the jail at which they work, and ICE will still issue immigration detainers with partner jurisdictions."
"The WSO derives its authority from section 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, but unlike the 287(g) program, WSO officers will not question individuals about their citizenship, alienage or removability, nor will they process aliens who are unlawfully present in the United States," ICE explained. "The new procedure was prompted by requests from the National Sheriffs’ Association and the Major County Sheriffs of America, which asked for a program limited in scope that would allow jurisdictions prohibited from honoring immigration detainers to cooperate with ICE."
The local jurisdictions that sign up for the program will nominate officers to receive WSO training and those candidates will have to undergo a background investigation from ICE.
"For some jurisdictions restricted by local policies that prohibit the recognition of immigration detainers, the WSO program would be the most appropriate initiative that allows for enhanced cooperation with ICE," ICE added.
National Sheriffs' Association Executive Director Jonathan Thompson said: "This program gives sheriffs the legal support to help federal law enforcement keep dangerous criminal illegal aliens out of their communities. It will not only decrease sheriff's liability but will give them the proper training to enforce the law."
Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said: "People in our country illegally who commit crimes must not be released back into our communities where they harm others. The Warrant Service Officer program allows sheriffs to lawfully help ICE keep criminal illegal aliens in jail and off the street by serving ICE arrest warrants. The WSO program helps enforce the rule of law and keeps our communities safe."
Acting ICE Director Matthew Albence said: "Policies that limit cooperation with ICE undermine public safety, prevent the agency from executing its federally mandated mission and increase the risks for officers forced to make at-large arrests in unsecure locations. The WSO program will protect communities from criminal aliens who threaten vulnerable populations with violence, drugs and gang activity by allowing partner jurisdictions the flexibility to make immigration arrests in their jail or correctional facility."
The move comes as President Donald Trump has recently made multiple changes in his administration in an effort to become tougher on illegal immigration as Democrats in Congress have shown little signs of being willing to cooperate with the administration to secure the southern border.
Yesterday, Trump tapped former Obama-era Border Patrol chief Mark Morgan to lead ICE, tweeting: "I am pleased to inform all of those that believe in a strong, fair and sound Immigration Policy that Mark Morgan will be joining the Trump Administration as the head of our hard working men and women of ICE. Mark is a true believer and American Patriot. He will do a great job!"