BROOKSVILLE, Fla. (FOX 13) - Two Bay Area counties have trained sheriff’s deputies as immigration officers so they can work with people who are in the U.S. illegally and also commit other crimes.
Governor Ron DeSantis made a stop in Brooksville, Florida to announce his support of the federal program that trains deputies as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents. Hernando and Pasco County sheriff's offices have deputies participating in the program.
Also there to express support were some grieving families who lost loved ones due to crimes committed by people in the country illegally.
“No family, no parent, no grandmother, no grandfather should have to bury their children,” said Vickie Lyon, whose daughter Nikki was killed and her two children injured in Kissimmee in 2001.
Families shared heartbreaking stories of a son and a daughter killed in crashes involving a driver who was in the U.S. illegally.
“The immigrant, after he hit our son and killed our son, got out of his car and sat on the curb and watched our baby boy, our son take his last breaths,” said Kiyan Michael, whose son, Brandon was killed in 2007 in Jacksonville.
The families said they don’t want others to share their pain, so they are encouraging other sheriff’s offices to join the federal program.
“This allows those specially trained deputies in our detention center to actually go into the national database for ice and actually do the investigation to determine whether they should be held,” said Hernando County Sheriff Al Nienhuis.
Before the program, Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco said detaining illegal immigrants quickly turned into a tough situation.
“We had nothing left to do but to release them because, how we detain them? We would have been charged with kidnapping,” said Nocco.
Now, when someone with illegal immigration status is arrested for a crime, there is a process the trained deputies go through to book them.
“They come to the jail. We run them. If their name comes up that they're here illegally, we do a little bit more research. We notify ICE,” said Nocco.
Nocco said they will also send paperwork to the sheriff’s office’s attorneys and they can approve or deny the paperwork, or the request to detain could go before a judge. Then, Nocco said ICE has 48 hours to pick them up, and if agents don’t show up the jail can't detain them anymore. Those deputies' immigration duties don't extend beyond the jail.
“What they are doing is something very sensible. They are not transforming their sheriff's departments into an immigration agency,” said DeSantis.
The sheriffs stressed that the program is only for immigrants in the country illegally who are also arrested for other crimes. They said a victim or witness to a crime who is in the country illegally would not be detained by the specially-trained deputies.
Governor DeSantis also announced he wants the Florida legislature to pass a law banning sanctuary cities and jurisdictions, adding that those cities that allow illegal immigrants who commit crimes to stay on the streets put families at risk.