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Fla. sheriff will hold inmates 48 hours for ICE

The sheriff’s office signed a “basic ordering agreement” with ICE to hold inmates for an extra 48 hours

Cindy Swirko
The Gainesville Sun, Fla.

ALACHUA COUNTY, Fla. — For two years Alachua County Sheriff Sadie Darnell was defiant when the federal government asked jails to hold foreign-born arrestees beyond their eligible release dates so authorities can determine if the inmates were in the U.S. illegally.

But with last week’s signing by Gov. Ron DeSantis of a “sanctuary city” law, the sheriff’s office now has no choice but to comply.

It has signed a “basic ordering agreement” with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to hold inmates for 48 extra hours. ICE can then issue an arrest warrant or authorize the jail to release the inmate.

The agreement has not yet been signed by ICE, said sheriff’s Lt. Brett Rhodenizer.

“The basic ordering agreement is one of the options to satisfy (the law),” Rhodenizer said. “This is ICE saying that once local charges have been satisfied, if we sent you these forms, we have 48 hours to figure out what our disposition will be on this individual.”

The agreement states ICE will pay a fixed rate of $50 for up to 48 hours of detention. The sheriff’s office has not clarified if that means $50 a day or the entire 48 hours.

It costs the sheriff’s office about $185 a day to house an inmate.

The bill DeSantis signed was passed by the Florida Legislature earlier this year. It requires all law enforcement agencies in the state to comply with federal authorities on immigration matters.

In 2017 the U.S. Department of Homeland Security began issuing “detainers” asking jails to hold foreign-born inmates beyond their eligible release date.

Darnell said at the time that ICE is notified of such inmates but she refused to comply with detainers, citing the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment prohibiting illegal seizure of a person. Darnell said she would keep an inmate in custody on a federal warrant.

A threat by the U.S. Department of Justice to withhold grant money to cities and counties in communities that did not comply failed to change Darnell’s position, which had the backing of the Alachua County Commission.

Rhodenizer said the constitutional issue is still a concern with the new law. Lawsuits have been filed across the country, including Miami-Dade County.

Financial matters are also a concern, Rhodenizer said.

The county pays for medical care for inmates. So if, for instance, an inmate has a heart attack while being detained for ICE, the county may be on the hook for that treatment, Rhodenizer said.

“Obviously, there is a business aspect to it,” Rhodenizer said. “We do a very good job ensuring the health and welfare and medical treatment of inmates so if we have someone on a federal detainer, how do we ensure that quality of care while they are in our custody? That should be a concern for our local taxpayers.”

Meanwhile, the Gainesville Police Department last year created a stir when then-spokesman Ben Tobias said the name of a possibly undocumented Guatemalan woman who was reportedly assaulted by her boyfriend would be turned over to ICE.

Tobias said it was GPD’s policy to notify ICE in such cases but Chief Tony Jones said it was “not GPD’s job to inquire (about) the immigration status of anybody.”

GPD Inspector Jorge Campos said the agency has tweaked its policy in light of federal and state laws.

“Where we are required to communicate with ICE, we will comply,” Campos said. “But we are not proactively communicating with ICE.”


©2019 The Gainesville Sun, Fla.