On Monday, the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office began to honor ICE detainers as a result of a bill signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis June 14 banning sanctuary policies that limit cooperation with federal immigration law.
Since September 2015, the sheriff’s office has not honored ICE detainers, or written requests for local law enforcement to hold a person in custody for an additional 48 hours after their release to provide ICE agents with extra time to decide whether to take the person into federal custody. The sheriff’s office required the agency to provide either a judicial order or a criminal warrant, according to a 2017 Weekly Declined Detainer Outcome Report from ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations.
In 2018, ICE issued 177,147 detainers, a 24 percent increase from the previous year, according to the 2018 ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations Report.
Arthur Forgey, ACSO spokesperson, said the office chose not to honor detainers issued by ICE in order to avoid being sued for false imprisonment for holding a person in custody beyond their release date.
“We weren’t really protecting anyone,” Forgey said.
The effect of the new policy on the relationship and trust between law enforcement officials and the community, a common concern for policies like this, remains to be seen, Forgey said.
Richard MacMaster, coordinator for the Interfaith Alliance for Immigrant Justice, an organization that works to educate the community on the local and national immigration crisis, said the newly passed bill is a major shift in policy.
“SB 168 is a very negative effect right across the board,” MacMaster said. “It affects not just undocumented people. It affects documented people in that these are their relatives, their spouses, their next-door neighbors. If you’re threatening one segment of the community, you’re threatening all of them.”
MacMaster said IAIJ is largely an action group and has advocated in the past about immigrant issues in the city, such as the Gainesville Police Department’s policies on dealing with non-citizens last year. The organization’s campaigns include detention and deportation, supporting refugees and immigration reform, according to the organization’s website.
The bill passed by the Florida Legislature is not the only challenge the immigrant community faces. President Donald Trump said in a tweet on June 22 that the mass deportations he ordered to happen in major cities that weekend would be delayed for two weeks.
In 2018, ICE removed 256,085 undocumented immigrants, a 13 percent increase from the previous year, according to the 2018 ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations Report.
Gainesville has had periodic scares of ICE raids and there is a fear of them in the community, MacMaster said.
“We have been, over time, publicizing what are your rights,” MacMaster said. “Even if you are undocumented, you have quite a lot of rights.”