Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw and the Board of County Commissioners have agreed to a Trump administration request for cooperation with its efforts to combat illegal immigration.
But Bradshaw has told county officials that cooperation — which gives PBSO a better shot at coveted federal grant funds — won’t call for his department to do anything more than it is already doing. And it won’t, he insisted, include the use of deputies as quasi agents for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, whose stepped up enforcement efforts have drawn criticism from some who view them as harsh and unnecessary.
Some law enforcement and city officials across the country have condemned the Trump administration’s linkage of federal policing grants to cooperation on illegal immigration efforts.
Los Angeles, for example, has filed suit against the U.S. Department of Justice, arguing that requiring municipal cooperation on immigration enforcement is unconstitutional, according to a report from The Los Angeles Times.
The push-back has not tempered the administration’s drive for a more aggressive posture on illegal immigration.
Trump continues to call for funding for a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico. ICE is no longer focusing its deportation efforts on undocumented residents suspected of committing a felony. Some undocumented people who were issued work permits during the Obama administration now face deportation. And President Donald Trump’s attorney general, Jeff Sessions, has called for an end to an Obama administration program that deferred deportation of undocumented people who were brought to the U.S. as children, people frequently referred to as “dreamers.”
Trump has suggested he is open to striking a deal with Democrats in Congress on dreamers, but the terms of that deal have shifted, leaving its prospects — and the immigration status of thousands — unclear.
The “certification of illegal immigration cooperation” Bradshaw signed requires the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office to agree to give U.S. Department of Homeland Security personnel access to detention facilities “in order to meet with an alien (or an individual believed to be an alien) and inquire as to his or her right to be remain in the U.S.”
It also requires the sheriff’s office to “provide advance notice as early as practicable (at least 48 hours, where possible) to DHS regarding the scheduled release date and time of an alien in the jurisdictions’s custody when DHS requests such notice in order to take custody of the alien.”
But the certification notably does not require “holding an alien beyond his or her scheduled time of release.”
That’s an important point for the sheriff’s office, which changed its policy three years ago to require a federal judge’s order to hold an undocumented criminal suspect past the date when he or she would have been released.
Bradshaw said that change was undertaken to keep his department in compliance with the law, not to make Palm Beach County a sanctuary, a description that has drawn derision from Trump administration officials and others who have said undocumented people are a threat to the personal safety and job prospects of U.S. citizens.
Speaking to commissioners last month, Bradshaw insisted that Palm Beach County is not a sanctuary.
“We have not been, are presently not and will not be a sanctuary county, as far as law enforcement is concerned, as long as I’m the sheriff,” he said.
Bradshaw described a sanctuary county or city as one where officials determine “that they will not notify ICE, that they will not work with the federal government and they will just release the people just like everybody else.”
The sheriff’s office, Bradshaw said, works with ICE regularly, describing his department’s relationship with the federal agency as “fantastic.”
“Somebody comes in, they’re arrested, they cannot prove they’re a U.S. citizen, that information is transmitted to ICE on a daily basis,” Bradshaw told commissioners. “(ICE) used to have an agent at our jail, but they’re short of people, so they removed that. So, we transmit the information to them on a daily basis.”
That puts the immigration onus on ICE from that point forward, Bradshaw explained.
“That means the ball’s back in their court,” he said. “They have to get the magistrate or the federal judge. Get the hold order. Present it to us. Then we will hold that person, regardless of what happens at first appearance. Works very smoothly. ICE is a good partner for us.”
County commissioners raised no objections to Bradshaw signing the cooperation certification or to the prospect of the county signing on as well.
The certification had been been previously a part of the application process for policing grants.
“Ultimately, this is a certificate in order to apply for the federal grant, correct?” Commissioner Steven Abrams asked Bradshaw. “So, you want to complete your application. You want to put it before the Department of Justice.”
“Correct,” Bradshaw said.
Bradshaw signed the cooperation certification form to compete for funds from the Justice Department’s Community Oriented Policing Services or COPS program, which was started during the Clinton administration.
COPS grants vary broadly. The city of Miami got a $1.9 million grant last year to combat gun violence. The Tampa Police Department got $1.9 million to enhance community engagement.
The cities of Los Angeles ($3.1 million) and Fort Lauderdale ($1 million) also got COPS grants to enhance community engagement.
The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office has not received COPS funding in recent years, and Bradshaw told commissioners the federal government won’t give cities and counties money from the program if they don’t agree to help with illegal immigration.
“They really haven’t said that, but I believe that’s the way they’re leaning, having read what I’ve read,” Bradshaw said. “It’s just not going to happen. But there’s no reason for us not to sign this because we’re in full compliance with what the law says, what their guidelines are and what they’re interested in.”