Call it a move to save tax dollars or a humanitarian effort. Either way, Miami-Dade County no longer will detain illegal immigrants under the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s “ICE Hold” program.
“This addresses solely those people, who because of their immigration status, are being held as an ICE detainee,” said commissioner Sally Heyman, who co-sponsored a resolution unanimously approved by the commission to stop paying for extended detention of undocumented immigrants.
The issue surrounds the Secure Communities Program that gives ICE the ability to request a prisoner be kept in custody for 48 hours after they are scheduled for release so they can be transferred to federal custody and likely deported.
The new ruling is designed to keep minor offenders, like folks driving without a valid license, out of jail.
“Those are the ones who are going to be released,” Heyman said.
Activist Edward Ramos, a lawyer with Kurzban Kurzban Weinger Tetzeli & Pratt in Miami, said about 2,500 people in Miami-Dade could be helped by the new resolution — those people who were jailed for minor offenses but remain in custody because of the ICE program.
“The resolution doesn’t affect at all criminal law enforcement,” Ramos said.
A September study by several community organizations and the University of Miami found the Secure Communities Program is straining local budgets and costing taxpayers about $12.5 million a year.
The study, “Fiscal Impact Analysis of Miami-Dade’s Policy on Immigration Detainers,” showed that non-immigrants spend around 21 days in jail, while immigrants spend about 56 days in jail. In Miami-Dade County, that amounts to about 91,560 extra jail days per year. At a cost of $140 per inmate per day, it comes to more than $ 12.8 million per year.
So why do local communities foot the bill?
Santa Clara County asked the same question and got this response from ICE’s former assistant director, David Venturella: “ICE does not reimburse localities for detaining any individual until ICE has assumed actual custody of the individual. Further, ICE will not indemnify localities for any liability incurred because the Anti-Deficiency Act prohibits such indemnity agreements by federal agencies.”
Immigrant activists say the Secure Communities Program amounts to little more than racial profiling.
“The main problem with Secure Communities is that it causes racial profiling of immigrants and it detains a great majority of people for minor crimes, not serious crimes,” Cynthia S. Hernandez, senior research associate for Florida International University, told Florida Watchdog. “Furthermore, local governments are not being reimbursed from the federal government for detaining these folks so the cost of this program is fully carried by taxpayers and local governments.”
Abuse also is a concern, said Cheryl Little, executive director of Americans for Immigrant Justice.
“Rather than protect communities, the Secure Communities Program ends up ensnaring countless individuals with only minor traffic or no offenses in their record,” she said. “The issue is particularly relevant now, as there is growing support for immigration reform that may provide millions of individuals a path to legal status.”
With the new Miami-Dade resolution, local law enforcement agencies will have more discretion in deciding who stays in jail indefinitely determining who is a potential threat.
“It’s sad that this administration has deported (so many people). Many of them are immigrates that are supposedly not the (target) of ICE,” Ramos said. “All we can do is change the things that we can, like this resolution, and then wait for immigration reform to take its course.”
Contact Marianela Toledo at Marianela.Toledo@FloridaWatchdog.org twitter @mtoledoreporter
Published with permission from Watchdog.org
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