Things That Matter

Florida Is Moving To Deputize Prison Guards As ICE Agents In A Move That Will Terrorize The Community

A federal advisory board in Florida has approved a measure to deputize state correctional offers as federal immigration agents. The state is now waiting on the “Memorandum of Agreement” from ICE to begin initiating the program. Republican Florida officials are enthusiastic about the new approach that will allow prison guards to profile inmates booked into prison to determine if they are undocumented immigrants. 

“(Corrections) Secretary Mark Inch has made great progress in his collaborative relationship with ICE and we are moving forward with this program,” Gov. Ron DeSantis said in a statement.

DeSantis has been cracking down on immigration and has been pushing for the program since April. Backed by Donald Trump, DeSantis is more than happy to imitate the administration’s rigid policies. 

DeSantis believes the program will be good for public safety.

“I believe public safety is important to maintain the best quality of life in our communities which is why I am extremely pleased that the Legislature gave me a sanctuary city bill I signed into law,” DeSantis said.

Florida has a sanctuary-city prohibition where law enforcement agencies are required to hold undocumented immigrants in custody for up to 48 hours if there is a detainer request from a federal agency. 

Five correctional officers will be trained by federal immigration authorities in the program. Democrats and immigrants rights groups believe the program will hurt immigrant communities not benefit public safety. 

“Turning our state employees into ICE agents at Florida taxpayer expense will not make our state safer,” said Casey Bruce-White, director of communications for the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida.

Opponents believe the sanctuary-city ban will lead to racial profiling.

“The ACLU and other opponents argue, in part, that policies such as the sanctuary-city ban will force local governments to spend resources to do the job of federal immigration agents. Also, they say the policies could lead to racial profiling across the state,” according to the Miami Herald. 

Florida isn’t alone in its plan to deputize prison guards, the approval would make it the fourth state to implement such a program in state-run prisons. Arizona, Massachusetts, and Georgia are the three others with similar ICE contracts. State taxpayer money will be used to pay for the program as Florida will be responsible for covering the tab on all travel, housing, and per diem costs. 

Meanwhile, 14 county jails also work with ICE. The decision to use local law enforcement as ICE operatives has received the ire of South Miami Mayor Phillip Stoddard. 

“As soon as the community perceives the local police as agents of ICE, they stop talking to the local police, and that makes everybody less safe,” he told the Miami Herald. “Now, there will be a whole segment of our community unwilling to report crimes. It’s already the case in a lot of immigrant communities, and this makes it worse.”

Florida immigrants face soaring arrest rates.  

A new polarizing law implemented by DeSantis allows 18-year-olds to work as correctional officers as a way to correct the increasingly high turnover rate. In September, the Florida Department of Corrections officials asked lawmakers for roughly $90 million to address the staffing issue, calling the issue “exceptionally high turnover rates.” 

“Staffing at the department has reached critically low level, and many of the staff currently employed are extremely inexperienced,” agency officials wrote in the budget request. 

However, the Miami Herald noted that Florida sheriff’s offices were eager to participate in working with federal immigration agencies, perhaps the new program will have the same allure to interested parties. 

According to the Tampa Bay Times, since Trump launched his strict immigration policies, the detention of noncriminals has soared due to tens of thousands of immigrants with no convictions being arrested. Undocumented immigrants in Florida with no convictions are seven times higher to be arrested than under the Obama administration, the highest surge in the U.S. 

The Trump administration arrested 53,441 immigrants without records in a single year, three times the rate of the Obama administration, which focused on undocumented immigrants who committed serious crimes. 

In Florida, one in every five residents is an immigrant with roughly 4.1 million foreign-born individuals making up 20 percent of the population. Florida immigration lawyers believe racial profiling has run rampant in the state. Federal law allows immigration agencies to have jurisdiction within 100 miles of the border, and within that jurisdiction, they can arrest anyone without a warrant. Because Florida is surrounded by water on three sides, the entire state is within the jurisdiction. 

“I do respect the need for immigration laws and that they do need to be enforced. I know a lot of good federal agents at (Immigration and Customs Enforcement). But they’re being misdirected,” said Chad Brandt, attorney at Orlando’s Brandt Immigration, told the Tampa Bay Times. “We’re wasting those precious resources on people who are building houses and cleaning hotel rooms.”

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