LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – Los Angeles County will not participate in a new Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) program that would allow local law enforcement officers to arrest and temporarily detain immigrants in the U.S. illegally on behalf of the agency, even if local “sanctuary” policies prevent them from doing so.
Under the Warrant Service Officer (WSO) program, local law enforcement officers would be allowed to conduct immigration arrests regardless of any local or state rules that prevent them from cooperating and allow them to execute arrest warrants issued by ICE, according to a statement from ICE.
So far only one jurisdiction in Florida has agreed to join the program, but authorities say there is interest in the WSO program from “several other local law enforcement agencies” and “additional signings are expected soon.”
In a statement released Tuesday, L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said LASD would not participate in the WSO program to “keep a line of separation between local law enforcement action and federal immigration policy.”
In 2015, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors voted in favor of the removal of federal immigration agents from county jails, but also asked Sheriff Jim McDonnell to continue to cooperate with ICE.
Orange County announced in March its jails would no longer house ICE detainees in order to use that space for mental health services.
Upon signing a WSO agreement, a participating local law enforcement agency nominates officers to receive training from ICE certified instructors to perform WSO functions. Upon successful completion of an ICE background investigation on all nominated candidates, federal credentials that reflect their authority will be provided to them once training is completed.
Participating jurisdictions will fund the cost of travel and officer pay associated with training, the agency said.
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. If ICE does not take the alien into custody within 48 hours, the individual must be released, according to the agency.
“This program gives sheriffs the legal support to help federal law enforcement keep dangerous criminal illegal aliens out of their communities,” said National Sheriffs’ Association Executive Director Jonathan Thompson. “It will not only decrease sheriff’s liability but will give them the proper training to enforce the law.”
But some civil rights groups such as the ACLU say the initiative 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,” said Lorella Praeli, deputy political director at the American Civil Liberties Union. “Participants would be forced to carry the financial burden of ICE’s aggression, potentially costing the state millions in operational expenses and legal fees.”
Authorities say the program was prompted by requests from the National Sheriffs’ Association and the Major County Sheriffs of America, which asked for a program limited in scope that would allow jurisdictions prohibited from honoring immigration detainers to cooperate with ICE.