Statewide grand jury urges lawmakers to tighten law around illegal immigrant releases

by | Jan 30, 2023

  • Calling on state lawmakers to delete and tighten laws around illegal immigration and how detainees are handled, a statewide grand jury says current laws are being abused.
  • The grand jury found that the process of lifting holds on detainees often lacked sufficient oversight, allowing the system to be exploited.
  • The Florida Supreme Court granted a request by Governor Ron DeSantis last year to empanel the grand jury to look into the practice of how detainees are released.

A statewide grand jury is urging lawmakers to curb the releases of undocumented immigrants from county jails. A presentment released Friday alleged that a law has been “intentionally and flagrantly abused,” resulting in the release of inmates who had been held in county jails under detainers issued by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“The consequence has been that illegal aliens arrested for serious felony offenses, such as sexual battery on a minor, armed carjacking and aggravated battery have been able to secure release from custody, notwithstanding ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) requesting a hold for deportation proceedings,” the presentment said.

A state law allows the lifting of holds in certain circumstances, such as when undocumented immigrants have been crime victims or witnesses, the presentment said.

But the grand jury said that without “sufficient oversight, this process allows the submission of an unsworn notice indicating that a statement exists where the jail inmate claims that they were a ‘victim’ of a qualifying offense under (the law), These ‘statements’ are often not challenged by anyone, nor are they corroborated or actually shared with the county jail. In effect, unproven claims are being submitted and approved allowing county officials to disregard and lift ICE holds.”

The grand jury called on the Legislature to delete that law and tighten another law that can lead to releases. Gov. Ron DeSantis, a potential 2024 presidential candidate who has long criticized federal immigration policies, requested impaneling the grand jury in June. The Supreme Court granted his request, with the grand jury impaneled in the 10th Judicial Circuit, which is made up of Polk, Hardee and Highlands counties.


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