Heated immigration debate could cost local law enforcement

Congress threatens to withhold money if agencies fail to communicate with I.C.E.

Colonel Kenny Davis

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, FL (WFLA) – Congress is now threatening to cut money from law enforcement agencies that fail to cooperate and communicate with the feds about holding illegal immigrants.  Several bay area counties are accused of being sanctuaries for criminal aliens. The Center for Immigration Studies claims Hillsborough, Pasco, Pinellas, and Hernando are sanctuary counties that protect criminal aliens from deportation by refusing to comply with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (I.C.E.) detainers.

The accusations by the right wing special interest group come on the heels of a terrible murder in San Francisco, but nonetheless they are raising the hackles of local law enforcement. The Hillsborough Sheriff’s Office calls the allegations absurd. “We follow the law,” said Colonel Kenny Davis.  Davis oversees the Orient road jail.  He won’t hold someone just because I.C.E. thinks they might be in the country illegally. “Because it’s against the law,” Davis stated.  If I.C.E. provides us with a probable cause affidavit or an order from a court or an order for deportation, we absolutely hold that individual for them.”

Recent court cases have ruled against local law enforcement agencies holding illegal immigrants without probable cause.  So in 2014 Sheriff David Gee sent a letter informing I.C.E., that his office will only honor an immigration detainer if a charging document is filed, a warrant issued, or a removal from the United States has been ordered.

There are about 3000 inmates at the Orient road jail, Colonel Davis says there is a probable cause affidavit or a court order to hold every one of them. The illegal immigration issue is heating up following the murder of 32 year old Kate Steinle in San Francisco.  The suspect is a man deported 5 times, who the San Francisco Sheriff’s Office released despite a request that I.C.E be notified so it could pick him up.

At a Senate immigration hearing in Washington, D.C., told lawmakers about the last seconds he spent with his daughter. “Suddenly a shot rang out, Kate fell, and looked at me and said,”Help me dad,” those are the last words I’ll ever hear from my daughter,” Jim Steinle said as his voice cracked. Steinle criticized inept laws and agencies.

The Center for Immigration Studies claims “sanctuary” cities and counties impede open communications between employees of their agencies and federal immigration agents. Colonel Davis insists H.C.S.O. Cooperates fully with I.C.E. “I have plenty of room in my releasing area and I.C.E. is more than welcome to move in and set up a desk right where I release every inmate that we have in this jail.  And if there is someone that they think they have jurisdiction over, they are more than welcome to detain that individual under their authority, because we don’t have the authority to enforce immigration laws,” he added.

The Center for Immigration Studies did not provide 8 On Your Side an explanation for designating Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco and Hernando counties as “sanctuaries.” In an email, Hernando County Sheriff’s Office staff attorney Joel Fritton stated their allegations are materially false and ignore the law of the land.  Fritton added, “This group bases their assertion on plain inaccuracies.  First, this nonofficial group falsely labeled Hernando County as a sanctuary city due to the fact that we require probable cause supported by an affidavit or a warrant from a judge to hold a suspected alien.

Upsetting to this organization, is that we refuse to violate the United States or Florida Constitution’s in detaining any individual without probable cause as required by the Fourth Amendment.  This measure is required to hold any person in a jail prior to sentencing or official charging.

The website affiliated with this group labeled not only Hernando county as such, but also included Pasco, Pinellas and Hillsborough counties in the same fashion, for the same reason.  The website crafted by this group is arbitrarily and capriciously expressing absolutely false, inaccurate and misleading information.  The casual observer associates a sanctuary city with a city such as San Francisco, who is touted as having no regard whatsoever for immigration laws.  To group Hernando County into the same category is reckless.”


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