Gov. Ron DeSantis’ push to decrease illegal immigration is slowly expanding the footprint of federal immigration authorities in parts of Florida’s criminal justice system, in ways that should be an example to other states. ICE now has formal agreements with 49 Florida sheriffs. Probation officers are notifying federal deportation officers about offenders. And a North Florida prison is poised to deputize corrections workers to perform some functions of immigration officers.

The wave of cooperation skyrocketed after Gov. DeSantis last summer signed a bill that requires local officials to use “best efforts to support federal immigration law.” The law is known as a ban on so-called “sanctuary” cities, which DeSantis vowed to outlaw during his 2018 campaign for governor. Backers of the bill accurately described the measure as a requirement to follow federal law.

The statute requires local governments to "use their best efforts to support the enforcement of federal immigration law." Before the law went into effect in July, 14 of the state’s sheriffs had agreements with ICE to train deputies working in county jails to perform some functions of immigration officers, now an amazing 49 sheriffs' have signed such agreements.

Under the Florida law, local officials cannot prohibit a law enforcement agency from “participating in any program or agreement” authorized under the federal 287(g) program, which includes agreements sheriffs are using. ICE spokeswoman Tamara Spicer said that, while not all of Florida's 67 counties have an agreement, all jails are complying with ICE “detainers,” which are requests from ICE told hold suspected illegal aliens in county jails until immigration officers pick them up. Sheriffs run 58 jails in Florida, and nine are operated by county governments.

At the state level, a federal advisory aboard has "reviewed and approved" the Northwest Florida Reception Center in Washington County to participate in an ICE-supervised program. Corrections officials said last November the program will help correctional officers at the state prison to “identify and process criminal aliens who may pose a risk to public safety in Florida.”

Attorney General Ashley Moody’s office, which is authorized to sue entities that violate the 2019 law, has received a single complaint about non-compliance since the law went into effect last year, according to Lauren Cassedy, a spokeswoman for Moody.

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Updated: Wed, Apr 29th 2020 @ 2:35pm EDT