SPLC demands transparency on Florida sheriffs’ plan to collaborate with ICE

The SPLC sent public records requests to 17 Florida counties this week, demanding more information about their recently announced plans to collaborate with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). 

The SPLC also sent a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to ICE about the proposal.

Federal courts across the country have concluded that local enforcement of immigration detainers – requests made by ICE to hold individuals who are otherwise eligible for release – is unconstitutional. ICE and Florida sheriffs claim that this new partnership protects local law enforcement from committing constitutional violations. Without more information, it is difficult to determine whether such agreements comply with the Fourth Amendment’s protection against being held without probable cause.

“Floridians have the right to know how our local resources are being used for federal purposes,” said Shalini Agarwal, managing attorney for the SPLC’s Florida office.  “Local jails are supposed to serve and protect local communities, not house immigrants who have been detained.”

According to the ICE press release, the 17 counties participating in the partnership will enter into Basic Ordering Agreements with ICE, under which the counties will hold individuals who are suspected of being deportable for a 48-hour period and be reimbursed by ICE.

The National Sheriffs’ Association and the Major County Sheriffs of America developed this new mechanism with ICE in an attempt to avoid the liability that local law enforcement agencies face for enforcing immigration detainers with no probable cause, a violation of the Fourth Amendment. While 17 jurisdictions in Florida agreed to participate in the initial rollout, ICE intends to expand this partnership over the coming year.

“ICE and the Florida sheriffs cannot simply contract their way around the Constitution,” said Lisa Graybill, deputy legal director for the SPLC. “The law is clear that local jails must have a legal basis to hold an individual, and absent that, they may face expensive lawsuits. Other states should think twice before following Florida’s lead.”

Due to the limited information ICE and the sheriffs provided about this new process, the SPLC sent public records requests seeking details about the partnership to the 17 sheriffs’ offices across the state of Florida and a FOIA request to ICE.

“Floridians must not be fooled: This partnership has nothing to do with keeping our communities safe,” Graybill said. “In fact, such efforts will discourage many victims or witnesses of crime from coming forward and communicating with the police, which will reduce public safety for everyone.”