Sarasota County has signed on to an agreement that allows local officials to execute federal warrants to hold criminal illegal aliens.

Sarasota County Sheriff Tom Knight, along with other Florida sheriffs, signed the agreement Monday to adopt the Warrant Service Officer Program in partnership with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, becoming one of the first 10 law enforcement agencies in the U.S. to sign onto the agreement.

The program authorizes deputies who already work in correctional institutions to execute federal warrants in real-time so criminal illegal aliens aren’t released back into the community before ICE officials have time to review their case.

“It’s just another tool to keep our residents safe,” Knight said. “We already have them in jail. This just gives ICE time to review their case and make a determination whether we should release the detainee or hold them for ICE to take into custody … instead of ICE (officials) coming into and out of our jails all the time.”

“This isn’t anything new for me,” Knight said. “I’ve been doing this since 2009. It’s a fair system. It doesn’t mistreat anybody. It just helps ICE do their job. My hope is that by executing federal warrants at the local level, we can really put a stop to criminal illegal aliens re-entering Sarasota County.”

The agreement, an initiative led by Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, equips specially-designated corrections deputies with the training, certification and authorization from ICE to serve and execute administrative orders of arrest against criminal illegal aliens who are housed in a correctional facility, at their time of release on local charges.

The agreement supplements the Basic Ordering Agreement that Sheriff Knight and 16 other Florida sheriffs signed in January 2018, which enables local jails to hold detainees for up to 48 hours when a federal warrant is issued by ICE.

ICE hasn’t always had the manpower to make it to the jail to pick up the detainees.

Even after ICE review, not every illegal alien who has committed a crime is detained by ICE.

ICE has its own standards and makes its own decision based on the totality of their criminal record to determine whether to detain someone for possible deportation from the country, Knight said. Being arrested for driving with a suspended license, for example, doesn’t automatically result in a ICE detainment.

Since 2009 the sheriff’s office has partnered with ICE to facilitate the removal of 545 criminal illegal aliens from the Sarasota County Jail, averaging more than 50 removals a year.

Knight said the program mirrors the legislature’s recent initiative to ban sanctuary cities.

“I’ve spoken with some of my colleagues from California,” he said, “where they are prohibited by state law from working with ICE. I find that atrocious. I will work with any federal agency to keep our community safe.

“What I don’t want to happen is someone comes into my jail, gets bonded out and we end up with some catastrophe like someone murdered or a police officer shot and killed by a criminal illegal alien.”

Portions of this story were taken from a Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office report.

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