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Editorial: Pinellas sheriff seeks solutions on undocumented immigrants

Rather than trading verbal jabs with the Trump administration over how to deal with suspected undocumented immigrants, Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri is working on solutions. Gualtieri is talking with federal officials about how local law enforcement officials can legally hold prisoners for Immigration and Customs Enforcement without violating their constitutional rights. It's a serious issue, and it's smarter to reach a consensus on proper procedure than to escalate tensions between some sheriffs and federal officials.

In the past, ICE has insisted local sheriffs should hold prisoners arrested on local charges until they can show up and determine whether the prisoners are in the country illegally. President Donald Trump even issued an executive order in January that called on local police and sheriffs to double as immigration officers, which is not their job. Labeling communities as sanctuary cities if they do not blindly heed federal demands and threatening to withhold federal money also is not helpful.

As the Tampa Bay Times' Tony Marrero reports, Gualtieri has worked diligently for months to seek a solution. The Pinellas, Hillsborough and Pasco sheriffs' offices accept ICE civil warrants to hold someone for 48 hours. The Broward and Alachua sheriffs do not. Gualtieri uses an additional procedure to rebook detainees into jail on immigration charges if ICE provides a detainer request and warrant but does not arrive by the time the detainee can be released on local charges. That puts the responsibility squarely on federal officials rather than the sheriff, which is where it belongs.

In the best scenario, ICE would have a judge sign their warrants and show up on time to take custody of suspected undocumented immigrants. That would take a change in federal policy and more financial resources. But the key is for ICE and local sheriffs to reach a consensus on dealing with undocumented immigrants that is both legal and feasible — and it's good that Gualtieri is a key voice in the discussion.

Editorial: Pinellas sheriff seeks solutions on undocumented immigrants 06/16/17 [Last modified: Friday, June 16, 2017 1:52pm]
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