ICE Program Allows Local Authorities to Arrest Immigrants

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency announced a new program that will allow local law enforcement officers to arrest and detain immigrants.

In a statement on Monday, May 6, the agency announced the Warrant Service Officer (WSO) program, which would allow local police to execute arrest warrants and temporarily detain immigrants on behalf of ICE. Local law enforcement agencies that join the program would be allowed to conduct arrests despite local or state rules that prevent them from doing so, according to the statement. Following the arrest of an immigrant through the program, ICE will have 48 hours to transfer the individual, or they will be released.

“Policies that limit cooperation with ICE undermine public safety, prevent the agency from executing its federally mandated mission and increase the risks for officers forced to make at-large arrests in unsecure locations,” acting ICE Director Matthew Albence said in the statement. “The WSO program will protect communities from criminal aliens who threaten vulnerable populations with violence, drugs, and gang activity by allowing partner jurisdictions the flexibility to make immigration arrests in their jail or correctional facility.”

The program was launched during a signing ceremony with the help of Florida state Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Núñez and 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 new program is derived from Section 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act from 1996. The act formed a similar external program which allowed local law enforcement to help ICE arrest and detain undocumented immigrants. Unlike the 287(g) program, WSO officers are not allowed to question individuals about their citizenship status and cannot process undocumented immigrants, the statement from the agency noted.

Lorella Praeli, the American Civil Liberties Union’s (ACLU) deputy political director and director of immigration policy and campaigns, urged local law enforcement not to join the program.

“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,” Praeli said in a statement. “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,” the statement continued.

On May 5, President Donald Trump announced that Mark Morgan, who served as the Border Patrol chief during the last three months of the Obama administration, would act as the head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, The New York Times reported.

“I am pleased to inform all of those that believe in a strong, fair and sound Immigration Policy that Mark Morgan will be joining the Trump Administration as the head of our hard working men and women of ICE,” Trump tweeted. “Mark is a true believer and American Patriot. He will do a great job!”

This is just part of the Trump administration’s crackdown on immigration. In April, the administration pushed for a proposal that would double the time asylum seekers would have to wait to receive a work permit to legally work in the US. The proposal, which was first reported on by BuzzFeed News, would require individuals to wait 365 days to gain a work permit. The United States and Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) told the publication that the proposal is not yet finalized.

“Over the past five years, crises at our southern border have yielded a staggering 220 percent increase in affirmative asylum applications causing significant backlogs, which can be exploited by those seeking economic opportunity in the United States to the detriment of those who truly need asylum,” USCIS Spokeswoman Jessica Collins previously told The North Star.

“To strengthen the integrity of the asylum system, US Citizenship and Immigration Services plans to propose regulatory amendments intended to promote greater accountability in the application process for requesting employment authorization and to deter the fraudulent filing of asylum applications for the purpose of obtaining work authorization.”

About the Author

Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A. in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in the various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.