Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri announces the new ICE Service Warrant Program in Largo, Fla. on May 6, 2019 (Image: YouTube)

In 2014, the Obama administration began instituting policies that, coupled with federal court decisions, led to what is now known as “sanctuary cities” where state and local police found it difficult to hold criminal illegal aliens under Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainment waivers if their government leaders chose to ignore them.

On Monday, ICE announced a new program rolling some of those decisions from 2014 back with a new program that allows sheriffs to become deputized to serve ICE warrants to criminal illegal aliens while in custody.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced today the creation of a new collaborative program intended for local law-enforcement that wish to honor immigration detainers but are prohibited due to state and local policies that limit cooperation with the agency.

The Warrant Service Officer (WSO) program was launched during a signing ceremony with Lieutenant Governor of Florida Jeanette Núñez, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, National Sheriffs’ Association Executive Director Jonathan Thompson and ICE Deputy Executive Associate Director for Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) David Marin. The effort, also intended for rural jurisdictions that lack the budget and personnel resources to become 287(g) partners, has gained interest from several other local law-enforcement agencies, which also attended the ceremony, and additional signings are expected soon.

Once a WSO officer serves an administrative warrant and executes an arrest on behalf of ICE, the agency has 48 hours to conduct a transfer of custody unless an Intergovernmental Service Agreement exists. If ICE does not take the alien into custody within 48 hours, the individual must be released. WSO officers will only make arrests within the confines of the jail at which they work, and ICE will still issue immigration detainers with partner jurisdictions.

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, in announcing the new program, appeared at times relieved when discussing the new program — and exasperated when discussing why it was necessary.

Gualtieri drew a sharp distinction between people who are in the country illegally and those here illegally who are committing crimes, saying the latter is what the new program is about and that any discussion to the contrary is misleading fearmongering.

“There is no dilemma about people who are here illegally and committing crime — they are criminal illegals who must be removed from this country… This is entirely about public safety and law enforcement working together.”

Gualtieri noted there are approximately 1 million criminal illegal aliens currently in the United States. He said when the Obama administration began legislative moves that led to the rise of sanctuary city policies, it strained the relationship between local safety enforcement officers and ICE agents after 25 years of harmony between the two.

“Sheriffs were between a rock and a hard place,”Gualtieri said. “We had to choose between releasing criminals from our jails to commit more crimes and victimize our communities, or hold these criminal illegals and risk being sued and having to pay six figure judgments for civil rights violations.”

He noted a 2017 executive order signed by President Donald Trump helped alleviate some of the potential legal implications of sheriffs who chose to hold criminal illegal aliens, but that the new one-day training program was “easy to implement and legally unchallenged.”

Gualtieri also said that sheriffs and ICE have worked together for almost 2 years to create the program because Congress had refused to do the work of addressing the problem.

“We’ve had to come up with these solutions because Congress has not acted to pass the laws necessary to close the gaps identified in the 2014 court decisions,” he said. “And its obvious Congress has no will to fix anything related to illegal immigration.”

The full press conference is below.