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March 22, 2024

King, Colleagues Work to Bolster Public Safety and Communication Between State and Federal Law Enforcement on Immigration Warrants

The bill would ensure undocumented persons convicted of violent felonies are not released back into the community

WASHINGTON D.C. — U.S. Senator Angus King has introduced legislation with six Senate colleagues to improve public safety and bolster coordination between state and federal governments to ensure violent undocumented persons are kept in custody and not released back into the community. The Improving Public Safety Through Immigration Warrant Issuance Act —would allow for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to obtain a judicially authorized warrant for an undocumented person who has been charged or convicted of committing a felony or violent crime in the United States.

Under the current system, when an undocumented person is charged by state or local law enforcement, ICE often issues an administrative request, known as a detainer, to hold that suspect in state custody until ICE can arrive. However, because in the current system detainers are not authorized by a judge — state or local law enforcement cannot hold a person in physical custody longer than the period they would have been released, allowing more time for ICE to step in, or they risk violating that person’s Fourth Amendment rights.

“We have a solemn obligation to keep our communities safe, and all criminals off our streets,” said Senator Angus King. “The Improving Public Safety Through Immigration Warrant Issuance Act is a common sense step forward that will work to improve coordination between local, state, and federal authorities regarding undocumented people who have been charged with or convicted of violent crimes. This legislation reinforces our commitment to public safety while we work toward a bipartisan solution to our nation’s insufficient immigration policies.”

Specifically, the legislation would:

  • Establish a constitutional mechanism for ICE to obtain a warrant from a magistrate judge to hold someone in a state or local custody until ICE can assume physical custody. 
  • Provide ICE the ability to hold an undocumented person if they are present in a jurisdiction that does not comply with ICE detainer requests.
  • Ensure due process and consistency with the U.S. Constitution by requiring ICE to show probable cause, which is the same standard that state and local governments must meet to obtain a criminal warrant.
  • Ensure that individuals who have been charged or convicted of a felony, a crime of violence, including crimes against children, or who are a national security threat and are removable under the immigration laws, remain in physical custody as appropriate.
  • Ensure that an entity holding an undocumented person, pursuant to a lawfully served warrant, notifies the federal government when such noncitizen is planned to be released.

The bill was also introduced by Senators Chris Murphy (D-CT), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Bob Casey (D-PA), Tim Kaine (D-VA), and Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ).


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