On May 6, 2019, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced the creation of the Warrant Service Officer program [PDF version
Under section 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), ICE can partner with local jurisdictions in order to deputize local police to enforce certain aspects of the immigration laws [see article
]. The ICE news release explains that the Warrant Service Officer (WSO) program is, in part, “intended for rural jurisdictions that lack the budget and personnel resources to become 287(g) partners…” The WSO program is also “intended for local law-enforcement that wish to honor immigration detainers but are prohibited due to state and local policies that limit cooperation with the agency.”
Under the program, WSO officers will have authority to serve an administrative warrant and execute an arrest on behalf of ICE. After the WSO officer makes the arrest, ICE will have 48 hours to conduct a transfer of custody of the alien unless an Intergovernmental Service Agreement is in effect. If ICE fails to take custody of the alien within 48 hours, the alien must be released. Under the program, “WSO officers will only make arrests within the confines of the jail at which they work…” ICE will continue to send immigration detainers to partner jurisdictions.
ICE states that the statutory authority for the WSO program comes from section 287(g) of the INA. The WSO program will work slightly differently than the 287(g) program, however. “[U]nlike the 287(g) program, WSO officers will not question individuals about their citizenship, alienage or removability, nor will they process aliens who are unlawfully present in the United States.” These limitations were developed after “requests from the National Sheriffs' Association and the Major County Sheriffs of America, which asked for a program limited in scope that would allow jurisdictions prohibited from honoring immigration detainers to cooperate with ICE.”
Officers from jurisdictions that are parties to WSO agreements with ICE will be nominated to receive training from ICE-certified instructors to carry out their authorities under the program. The training for the WSO program is slightly modified from the training required for the 287(g) program.
In short, the 287(g) program will provide limited authority to partner jurisdictions to hold aliens in local jails or correctional facilities for up to 48 hours pursuant to warrants issued by ICE. Pinellas County (Florida) County Sheriff Bob Gualitieri became the first Sheriff to sign on to the WSO program.
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