Florida Lt. Gov. Nunez helps launch immigration program

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Days after Florida lawmakers passed legislation that would require local law enforcement agencies to fully cooperate with federal immigration authorities, Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nunez offered support for a federal immigration program launched Monday.

The Warrant Service Officer program will train and certify sheriff’s deputies to serve federal immigration warrants on detained undocumented immigrants. On Monday, Nunez attended the ceremonial launch of the program in Largo alongside Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, whose office became the first in the nation to participate in the program.

The program is similar to what is known as the 287(g) program, which allows state and local law-enforcement officials to investigate, apprehend, detain and transport undocumented immigrants who are wanted for deportation. But the new program differs because it does not require officers to question people about their citizenship or immigration status and does not require officers to “process aliens who are unlawfully in the United States.”

Deputies will only make arrests within the confines of the jails where they work and will only honor federal immigration detainers for up to 48 hours. “The program gives sheriffs the legal support to help federal law enforcement keep dangerous criminal illegal aliens out of their communities,” said Jonathan Thompson, executive director of the National Sheriffs’ Association. “It will not only decrease sheriff’s liability but will give them proposed training to enforce the law.”

Training expenses also are cheaper for local governments than in the 287(g) program. The Legislature last week gave final approval to a controversial bill that would ban so-called sanctuary cities, requiring agencies to cooperate with immigration authorities.