Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday announced a series of measures aimed at helping guard against prisoners who entered the country illegally from committing more crimes after their release.
During a news conference at the American Police Hall of Fame & Museum in Titusville, DeSantis called on the Biden administration to enforce “detainers” that ensure the transfer of inmates who are in the U.S. illegally to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, for deportation upon completion of their prison terms.
DeSantis said he will be sending a letter to the Biden administration, asking that such a policy be consistently followed.
“This is a layup,” DeSantis said, indicating that the initiative makes sense to pursue. “We want to make sure we’re doing all we can to protect the folks here in the great state of Florida.”
DeSantis said he had directed Florida Department of Corrections Secretary Mark Inch to identify all Florida inmates to be released with detainer agreements, “and pursue all legal means available to transfer them to ICE custody upon completion of their Florida prison terms.”
Inch also was directed to:
- Provide monthly updates to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the governor’s office on inmates who have detainers lifted by ICE during the 90 days before their release dates, as well as inmates who are released at the direction of ICE.
- Notify local law enforcement whenever prisoners in the country illegally may be released into their communities.
- Work with FDLE to check on a weekly basis whether those individuals have committed new crimes.
DeSantis’ assertion that immigration agencies under Biden were directed not to detain potentially dangerous ex-convicts was contradicted by a Jan. 20 memorandum from acting Secretary of Homeland Security David Pekoske.
While Pekoske admitted the department was unable to remove all those in the country illegally “due to limited resources,” the memo directed agencies to prioritize enforcement for individuals recently released from prison who have been convicted of an “aggravated felony … and are determined to pose a threat to public safety,” he wrote.
A long list of crimes qualify as “aggravated felonies” under section 101(a) of the federal Immigration and Nationality Act, including: murder, rape or sexual abuse of a minor; trafficking in drugs or firearms; sex trafficking; felony fraud or conspiracy; racketeering; and violent crimes or theft for which the term of imprisonment is at least one year.
The memo went on: “Nothing in this memorandum prohibits the apprehension or detention of individuals unlawfully in the United States who are not identified as priorities herein.”
Parents of victims
DeSantis was joined at the news conference by Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey, as well as the parents of two young men who were killed by persons in the country illegally and were previously convicted of crimes. One was killed in a shooting, the other in a car accident.
Jamiel Shaw Sr. detailed the story about a gang member killing his 17-year-old son, Jamiel Shaw Jr., in 2008, near the family’s home in Arlington Heights, California.
Kiyan and Bobby Michael talked about a twice-deported ex-convict who killed their 21-year-old son, Brandon Michael, in a traffic accident in Jacksonville while the person was driving without a driver’s license or car registration.
All three parents have previously appeared at high-profile, Republican-led events in support of anti-illegal immigration policies. Shaw spoke on behalf of Donald Trump at the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland, while the Michaels attended DeSantis’ State of the State address at the governor’s invitation in 2019.
The speakers all said they supported DeSantis’ initiatives.
Ivey thanked the governor for his efforts.
“This is a governor that’s standing here today, and saying ‘I’m taking action.’ A governor that’s standing here today, saying, ‘We’re not sitting back, and waiting on the next family to be victimized,’ ” Ivey said. “He’s taking a stand to protect our citizens. He has always taken a stand to protect our cops. He has always taken a stand to protect our Constitution.”
DeSantis said the timing of his actions is crucial, with as many as 50 inmates who are in the country illegally scheduled for release from Florida prisons in the next month, and potentially more than 200 in the next six months.
Federal lawsuit filed
Last month, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody filed a federal lawsuit, challenging immigration moves by the Biden administration, contending that the decisions threaten public safety.
“The Biden administration’s actions will allow criminal aliens to be released into and move freely in the state of Florida, and their resulting crime will cost the state millions of dollars on law enforcement, incarceration and crime victim’s assistance,” said the 28-page lawsuit, filed in Tampa. “It will also cause unquantifiable harm to Florida’s citizenry and will force the state to expend its own law enforcement resources to pick up the slack.”
U.S. Department of Justice attorneys last week filed a 33-page response that argued the proposed preliminary injunction should be rejected, and that the Biden administration has set immigration-enforcement priorities.
“The Department of Homeland Security, like all executive agencies, must accomplish its mission while operating with finite resources,” the response said. “In fulfilling its charge to enforce U.S. immigration laws, it cannot arrest, detain and remove all noncitizens unlawfully present in the United States. Thus, during every presidential administration, DHS invariably has had to make decisions over where it will dedicate its limited resources in order to further its objectives of national security, border security and public safety.”
A federal judge will hear arguments in the case on April 13.
News Service of Florida contributed to this report.
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