Hillsborough sheriff decides against ICE warrant training program

Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister explained Tuesday why he was not one of the 11 Florida sheriffs to sign on to the new Warrant Service Officer program

The program is designed to help local law enforcement officials serve federal warrants on behalf of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

”I believe that makes a sheriff’s office employee an ICE agent and I don’t believe, as a local sheriff, we're responsible for immigration enforcement,” Sheriff Chronister said. 

Under current federal law, local law enforcement officials cannot serve federal warrants. Under the WSO program, however, if a 48-hour detainer request is issued along with a warrant for an undocumented inmate, the WSO-certified deputies would be able to serve that warrant and then turn the person over to ICE.

Eleven Florida sheriffs offices signed on, including the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office.

“This is the best of all available options to lawfully honor the detainers because it is easy to implement and it is legally unchallengeable,” Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said on Monday.

Sheriff Chronister says, despite not participating, his agency will still work closely with all federal agencies, including ICE.

“If they decide they want that inmate once the local charges are satisfied, they have up to 48 hours to come pick up that individual or that individual with be eligible for release,” he said. “There’s a federal arm for that. I let them do their job and we'll do ours and that’s protecting our citizens.” 

The sheriff also worries the program might make crime victims less likely to come forward.