Fed up with underwriting the nation’s broken federal immigration system, Miami-Dade County plans to stop paying the cost of temporarily housing undocumented immigrants in its jails.
The dramatic shift in policy comes at a time when the cash-strapped county is coping with a tight budget, but some county commissioners say they are also calling attention to what they say is a serious human-rights issue.
“Not only is it about saving money,” said County Commissioner Sally Heyman, a Democrat in a nonpartisan post. “It’s about saving people.”
At issue are Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s requests to keep prisoners in custody for 48 hours after they are scheduled to be released so that they can be turned over to federal authorities. Detainees are often deported soon after.
The so-called “detainers” are part of the contentious federal Secure Communities program, which is intended to encourage police and ICE to share names, fingerprints and other information to identify non-citizens who have committed serious crimes. Miami-Dade has taken part since 2009.
Nationwide, ICE removed more than 400,000 individuals last year, according to the latest figures.
The feds say the program, which began in 2008, is key to protecting public safety and national security.
But immigration-rights activists say the program has ensnared foreign nationals who have been picked up for minor violations, such as traffic offenses, and extended their detentions even if charges are dropped or they have made bail.