LARGO (FOX 13) - Florida sheriffs across 17 counties have joined a partnership to take criminal illegal aliens off of the streets.
Together with U.S. Immigration and Customs (ICE), each county has agreed to hold illegal immigrants arrested on criminal charges for up to 48 hours in their jails, giving ICE officers more time to pick the individual up for potential deportation.
In order to legally hold the individual, ICE must issue a warrant based on probable cause that the person is an illegal alien. The warrant will be served to the sheriff's office, who will then be permitted to hold the individual in jail for up to 48 hours.
"We're not making any decisions. ICE is making the decision. We're housing them and we're being paid a fee for housing them, which is consistent with what we do across the board in a whole bunch of context every single day," said Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri.
ICE will pay the sheriff's office up to $50 as a "housing fee" for holding the individual.
For Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, being among the first 17 Florida counties to join the agreement was an easy decision.
"We'll be able to rid our counties and this country of those who illegally come here and victimize the people of the United States," said Judd.
He gave examples of cases such as Lorenzo Martinez, a Guatemalan immigrant who hit and killed a man on a scooter back in 2015 while driving drunk.
"[Martinez] was sentenced to 50 years in prison. 50 years that you, the taxpayer, are paying for, and he should have never been here in the first place," said Judd.
Martinez was arrested five times in Polk County in the four years prior to the deadly accident on criminal charges, including driving without a valid license.
Sheriff Judd also referenced Ma-Concepcion Lopez, a Mexican immigrant arrested for running a meth business in Polk County. After serving three years in prison, Lopez was caught trying to re-enter the United States three times.
According to Judd, the third time, she admitted to receiving federal assistance. She's currently behind bars after pleading to a 25-year sentence.
"Once again taxpayers across this country, you're paying for her to be locked up because we didn't give the support to ICE that they should have had," said Judd.
Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Guiltieri argued that the partnership does not violate anyone's Fourth Amendment rights because the individuals are being held on an ICE-issued warrant.
Some of the sheriffs expressed that they feel as much of a moral obligation as a legal obligation to enact the new program.
"Currently, we're kind of between a rock and a hard place," said Hernando County Sheriff Al Nienhuis. "When our charges are done, we have to let them go or we have to risk getting sued."
Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister added, "Local sheriffs aren't in the immigration enforcement business, but when someone is arrested, we certainly have an obligation to allow ICE the opportunity to decide whether they're going to deport the individual, take custody of the individual, or we end up releasing the individual."
ICE officials said they hope to expand the partnership to every Florida county over the coming years.
The county sheriffs currently participating in Florida include Pinellas, Lee, Manatee, Bay, Walton, Hernando, Brevard, Polk, Indian River, Charlotte, Monroe, Sarasota, Columbia, Santa Rosa, Suwannee, Hillsborough, and Pasco.