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Gov. DeSantis slams Biden Administration's approach to immigration

The Republican governor said he is looking into avenues available without the federal government's involvement.

TITUSVILLE, Fla. — DeSantis is taking aim at the Biden Administration regarding its immigration policies, detainers and action when it comes to deporting people with criminal histories.

On Thursday, the Republican governor demanded the federal government "rescind its recent executive action allowing criminal aliens to go free."

What he's referring to is on President Joe Biden's first day in office, the acting secretary for the Department of Homeland Security requested a review of the department's policies and practices when it comes to immigration enforcement.

As a result, a 100-day pause on "certain removals" was put in place to help focus resources on areas where they were most needed. 

According to the memorandum, the DHS would instead focus on the deportation of noncitizens who were thought to be engaged in terrorism, posed a threat to national security, were not present in the U.S. before Nov. 1, 2020, or those convicted of an aggravated felony.

In response, Gov. DeSantis called the practice "dangerous" and "problematic." He wants ICE to return to policies held under the Trump Administration and is calling for criminals, if found to be in the U.S. illegally, to be removed.

“I’m sending a letter to the Biden Administration today asking them to continue the prior policies where you’re taking custody of criminal aliens and removing them," DeSantis said. "We think that getting rid of the detainers is not good for the safety of Florida’s communities.”

But ICE told PolitiFact that it is still issuing detainers. The federal agency said those detainers are just prioritized for people deemed serious offenders. It is not clear how many, if any, of the detainers still being issued are taking place in Florida.

Over the next 30 days, DeSantis says the Florida Department of Corrections is estimating that 50 confirmed or suspected undocumented immigrants will complete their state prison terms and be released. He added that that number could grow to approximately 200 during the next six months. 

In an attempt to take matters into his own hands, DeSantis issued the following direction to FDC Secretary Mark Inch: 

  • Identify all Florida inmates with detainer agreements and pursue all legal means available to transfer them to ICE custody once their prison term is complete.
  • Provide monthly updates to the FDLE and Office of the Governor on all inmates who have detainers lifted by ICE.
  • Provide monthly updates to FDLE and the Office of the Governor on all undocumented inmates released at the direction of ICE.
  • Notify local law enforcement whenever undocumented individuals may be released into their communities.
  • Submit formal requests to ICE to confirm the citizenship status of all inmates where it is "inconclusive."

“Florida will not sit by and watch idly as the federal government sets criminal aliens free and abdicates its legal obligation to enforce immigration law,” DeSantis said.

As for the item at the center of Florida's debate with the federal government: it's called an immigration detainer and is essentially a notice that informs law enforcement of ICE's intent to take custody of a person exiting or about to exit the agency's custody.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union, a detainer request is not the same as a warrant, and law enforcement agencies are not legally required to comply.

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