Immigration officials are now linked to the booking data maintained by all Florida county jails. Immigration and Customs Enforcement ("ICE") has achieved the ability to check the county jails for foreign nationals subject to deportation. The ICE field officer director in Miami announced that all 67 counties in the State of Florida are currently linked to their databases. The program is controversial, but will allow ICE to locate foreign nationals who have been convicted of previous crimes or are pending criminal charges. The director was quoted as saying, "This capability means that local law enforcement and ICE are automatically alerted when potentially deportable criminal aliens come into state and local custody." Prior to the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, criminal foreign nationals were not held because the booking centers were not linked to an immigration database.
This change brings up a couple of interesting points that need to be addressed. When a person is booked into a Miami-Dade County Jail, corrections will be notified by immigration and told to place an immigration detainer on a recent arrestee. Corrections will then note on the jail card that an immigration detainer is in place and will affix the detainer to the physical jail card. Once the detainer is place, it is futile to post a bond because the detainer will not allow the department of corrections to release the defendant. Even requesting a bond hearing is futile because a county or circuit court judge does not have the power to lift the detainer.
As long a person is in the United States legally, e.g. a local permanent resident, ICE will not issue a detainer unless the person is convicted. If a defendant is here illegally, a detainer will be issued. The important point here is that defendants very often enter pleas to credit time served as a matter of convenience. Once that plea is entered, depending on the charge, a person that can be detained and made subject to deportation proceedings. Another common occurrence is that a person entered a plea several years ago that when the plea was entered was not a deportable offense. Since the 9/11 attacks, immigration laws have become much more strict actually allowing for deportation for charges such as marijuana possession and cocaine possession.
If you or someone you know is being held in a county jail with an immigration detainer, it is imperative to contact a Miami criminal lawyer experienced in representing client is post-conviction relief matters. The only way to secure the release of person who was previously convicted of an offense is to file a motion to vacate. Once the motion to vacate is granted, the lawyer must secure a nolle prosse or a dismissal of the charges by the state attorney's office handling the matter. Another important point to remember is that a person in custody will not be transported to immigration authorities until the case is closed. Never enter a plea to obtain the transfer because even though the person will be transferred, the conviction or withhold of adjudication will guarantee deportation.
Florida Jail Linked to Immigration Databases, The Miami Herald.com, June 30, 2010.