Gov. DeSantis wants Florida officials to ignore federal immigration law


The Florida GOP governor really wants things to go back to the good old days under Donald Trump.

Florida's Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, is doing everything he can to avoid complying with President Joe Biden's new U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement guidelines.

On Thursday, DeSantis ordered his administration to essentially disregard the current federal immigration law and to comply with ICE detainers in any way possible, directing the Florida Department of Corrections Secretary Mark Inch to identify noncitizen inmates in the state who were previously issued ICE detainers and to make sure ICE takes them into custody when they finish their sentences.

The governor is unhappy about recent policy changes under the Biden administration to limit the circumstances under which ICE can request that local jails or state prisons detain noncitizens until ICE takes them into custody.

In February, the Department of Homeland Security released interim guidelines, which include a narrower set of priorities on arresting, detaining, and deporting noncitizens. The new priorities limit ICE to only noncitizens deemed the most serious threats to public safety, such as terrorists, members of criminal gangs, and convicted murderers. Any noncitizen who unlawfully entered the United States on or after Nov. 1, 2020, would also not be protected under Biden's new ICE priorities.

Under the Trump administration, ICE detainers were issued to all noncitizens completing their sentences in prisons and jails, even crimes as minor as traffic violations.

DeSantis lashed out about the Biden administration's new criteria at a press briefing Thursday.

"We’ve already had in Florida a handful of criminal aliens that had finished their sentences, and the detainers were removed by the Biden administration," the governor said. "Normally they would’ve been transferred, federal custody, and removed. Well, now the federal government is effectively releasing them into our communities."

He added, "Florida will not sit by and watch idly as the federal government sets criminal aliens free and abdicates its legal obligation to enforce immigration law."

DeSantis further demanded that Biden abandon his own immigration policies and restore ICE guidelines to the way they were under Donald Trump.

"I’m sending a letter to the Biden administration today asking them to continue the prior policies, where you’re taking custody of criminal aliens and removing them," he said Thursday.

Trump signed an executive order during his first week in the White House to expand the 287(g) program, an agreement between ICE and state and local law enforcement agencies to identify, arrest, as well as serve warrants and detainers of incarcerated noncitizens, according to ICE's website.

"Once President Trump assumed office, detainer usage rose rapidly," Syracuse University's Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse Immigration noted. "By March 2017, the second full month of the Trump Administration, ICE recorded preparing 13,971 detainers — up 31.7% from January's level."

Florida by far has the most law enforcement agencies that entered the 287(g) agreement, around double that of Texas, where 26 sheriff's offices participate.

And DeSantis is pushing hard for it to stay that way for as many noncitizens as possible. He's also supporting Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody's lawsuit against the Biden administration, filed in March, to halt the new ICE guidelines.

Meanwhile, lawmakers and immigration advocacy groups are asking President Joe Biden to take further action to undo the harmful policy.

On Feb. 12, over 60 congressional members sent a letter to Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas urging an end to ICE detainers and the 287(g) program. The ACLU separately released similar recommendations.

"When local police act hand in glove with ICE everyone is less safe," said Naureen Shah, senior advocacy and policy counsel for the ACLU, noting that noncitizens could be hesitant to seek help from police. "President Biden and his administration should move decisively to end programs that tap local police for federal immigration enforcement."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.