LARGO — U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced the creation of a new collaborative program May 6 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 program was launched during a signing ceremony with Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nunez, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, National Sheriffs’ Association Executive Director Jonathan Thompson and ICE Deputy Executive Associate Director for Enforcement and Removal Operations David Marin at the Sheriff’s Administration Building in Largo.
Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office was the first jurisdiction to become a WSO participant.
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.
The new procedure 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.
Once a jurisdiction signs a WSO Memorandum of Agreement, the local law-enforcement agency will nominate officers to receive training from ICE certified instructors to perform WSO functions. ICE will conduct a background investigation on all nominated candidates, who will receive federal credentials that reflect their authority once training is completed.
The WSO process will be supervised and directed by ICE, and the cost of travel and officer pay associated with training will be funded by the participating jurisdiction. WSO candidates will receive one day of training from ICE personnel at a local training site.
“People in our country illegally who commit crimes must not be released back into our communities where they harm others,” Gualtieri said. “The Warrant Service Officer program allows sheriffs to lawfully help ICE keep criminal illegal aliens in jail and off the street by serving ICE arrest warrants. The WSO program helps enforce the rule of law and keeps our communities safe.”