ICE starts new program to deputize local police as ICE agents, ACLU says it violates Fourth Amendment

Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, Pinellas County on Florida’s Gulf Coast

The ACLU is warning that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is asking local law enforcement to violate the Fourth Amendment and protections from search and seizure laws. On Monday, ICE introduced a program that would allow your local police to act as federal ICE agents called the Warrant Service Officer (WSO) program. The program is an attempt to circumvent the policies in sanctuary cities, which don’t cooperate with ICE. However, the WSO program could expand to any jurisdiction that signs on at a cost to taxpayers. Worse, the program would exacerbate fear and distrust of local police.

According to the ACLU, ICE is currently soliciting jurisdictions nationwide, but so far only one jurisdiction in Pinellas County on Florida’s Gulf Coast has signed on.

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Lorella Praeli, deputy political director at the American Civil Liberties Union, had the following strong response, in which she says this is an attack on the Consitution.

“This program is just the latest scheme by ICE to enlist local police in its abusive deportation agenda. The agency explicitly aims to subvert the will of local communities that have passed ordinances to prevent exactly this kind of cooperation between police and ICE. Participants would be forced to carry the financial burden of ICE’s aggression, potentially costing the state millions in operational expenses and legal fees.”

“ICE and the other agencies complicit in Trump’s deportation force may feel they are above the constitution — but neither they, nor local police, are exempt from search and seizure laws. With this program, ICE is asking local law enforcement to risk violating the Fourth Amendment. We urge local law enforcement to resist this dangerous proposal and stand by their commitment to the communities they serve.”

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva has issued a statement that the LASD would not participate in the WSO program to “keep a line of separation between local law enforcement action and federal immigration policy.”

The Washington Post notes that ICE currently has formal agreements in place with 75 cities and counties.

“ICE already has extensive formal agreements — known as 287(g) agreements — with 75 U.S. cities and counties where local law enforcement agencies actively help ICE to arrest and detain people who are in the United States illegally. Those local agencies interview immigrants suspected of being in the country illegally about their citizenship status and use ICE training and computer technology to collaborate with the agency.”

However, with the WSO program, sheriff’s deputies would be ready to go after receiving a single day of on-site training from ICE according to reports. The move allows police to detain criminal suspects for an extra 48 hours, after which they must be released unless ICE takes them into federal custody.

CBS Los Angeles reported that local law enforcement agencies can nominate officers for the WSO program. After a background check conducted by ICE they receive the brief training and receive their federal credentials. Local jurisdictions fund travel and pay expenses for the newly deputized ICE agents.

It’s worth noting that in 2016, right-wing conservatives were up in arms about the prospects that President Obama would federalize police. Today, those same people are fully supporting Trump as he does just that.

In a report from Florida from WTSP, the outlet indicates that Pinellas County and ten other sheriffs departments have signed on to the WSO program. As you can see in the video below, the sheriffs seem to have told reporters “there is no additional cost associated with the Warrant Service Officer program,” contradicting other reports.


Featured image: Screenshot via YouTube