As lawmakers in Florida's capitol and Washington D.C. continue to wrestle with issues stemming from illegal immigration, Polk Sheriff Grady Judd made his views clear: if someone's in the country illegally but following all the rules, working hard and contributing to the community, he's not coming after them.
- Judd: Deciding law-abiding undocumented immigrants fate is Congress's battle
- Undocumented immigrants who end up in his jail WILL be reported to ICE
- Those who only commit misdemeanor crimes not exempt from reporting
“If you’re here illegally, you’re hard-working, you’re God fearing, you’re taking care of your children and you’re not violating the law, Congress needs to act and give them a path to legal status that they’ve earned, and then a path to citizenship,” Judd said.
Judd went on to explain that it's not those people he’s concerned about.
“Even if you’re in this country illegally, as long as you’re not violating the law, we’re never going to know it," he said. "We’re not going to bother you. We’re not coming into your neighborhoods, we’re not going into your schools. We’re not stopping you on the streets and asking for identification."
RELATED STORY: ICE details new agreement with Florida sheriffs on detaining undocumented immigrants
Judd said deciding the fate of law-abiding undocumented immigrants is Congress’s battle, and he’s just an influencer.
Instead, he’s focusing on what he can control, making sure that undocumented immigrants who end up in his jail get reported to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
“If you come in this country illegally and commit crimes, we’re going to do our very best to deport you,” Judd said. “You’re not supposed to be here, and now you’re victimizing people in the United States, so you can get out yourself or we’re going to put you out.”
Judd went on to say undocumented immigrants suspected of committing misdemeanor crimes, such as driving without a license, will not be exempt from being reported to ICE.
“That’s not a minor thing," Judd said. "You wreck a car, you tear up someone’s property, you injure them or kill them. If ... you’ve not shown proficiency to operate a motor vehicle, if you don’t have insurance, if you’re here illegally, you’re going to get deported,” Judd said.
“Get used to it," Judd concluded. "It’s a happening thing. We’ll report you and if ICE deports you, that’s the happening thing.”
Judd said deputies send ICE a daily list of jail inmates they suspect are in the country illegally. To determine who may be in the country illegally, he said suspects are asked questions such as, “Are you here illegally?", "Where is your place of birth?", "Where is your birth certificate?", and "Where is your driver’s license?“
He said they also look for any personal identification that validates the person is in the country legally. If the suspect can’t provide that information and is arrested, then they are added to the daily list.
Immigration officials then verify if the person has a legal status. If they do not, ICE determines whether they want to pick up the inmate and move forward with removal proceedings or deportation.
According to the new agreement with ICE, Polk County and 16 other Florida sheriffs have agreed to hold the suspect for ICE for 48 hours past their jail sentence or bailing out.