NEW PORT RICHEY, Fla. - An agreement between the Pasco County Sheriff's Office and the federal government to detain suspected illegal immigrants have produced concerns regarding abuse and racial profiling.
The agreement allows deputies to check the immigration status of jail detainees, and if they have an immigration hold, to detain them until they're picked up by U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.
Pasco County is the first Tampa Bay law enforcement agency to enter into such an agreement.
“I am extremely concerned,” said attorney Daniela Carrion, who thinks the arrangement undermines the constitutional rights of illegal immigrants, including a maximum 48 hour hold for many minor charges.
One of Carrion's clients is the daughter of an undocumented worker who is scheduled to be deported after leaving the scene of an accident that wasn't his fault.
North Carolina and Arizona have similar agreements with law enforcement, where misdemeanor arrests and racial profiling claims have spiked, Carrion said.
Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco says the focus is on reducing crime.
“If you show us a fake ID on a traffic stop, and we don't know who you are, yes, we have to take you to jail because you may be a murderer," he said. "You may have a warrant for your arrest."
Nocco added that it only makes sense to get criminals, especially those here illegally, off the streets and insists that only those brought to the jail on other charges will have their names searched, with only those specifically requested by ICE to be held.
“ICE may say to us we don't want that person, we're not picking them up.” Nocco said.
The training ICE provides to law enforcement is to avoid racial profiling, said the agency, which added that a department's participation in the program will be revoked if such is proven.
But Carrion is concerned of potential abuse from local deputies having access to federal databases.
She's advising anyone who comes in contact with law enforcement to not answer this question: “Where are you from?”
Sheriff Nocco offered his own advice.
“Don't commit a crime in our community, and you won't have to go to jail, and we won't be reporting you to ICE," he said.
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