Palm Beach County Sheriff vows to no longer hold illegal immigrants without warrant.

Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw, at the urging of immigrant advocates, Tuesday agreed to stop routinely holding people in jail because of citizenship questions.

Bradshaw now joins the Broward Sheriff's Office, Miami-Dade Police Department and a host of law enforcement agencies across the country that have stopped automatically complying with federal "detainer requests" to temporarily jail people who may not be living in the country legally.

A detainer request is supposed keep someone in jail for up to 48 hours until U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement can take them into custody for potential deportation.

But immigrant advocates say the practice is unfair because it subjects people to jail time without a court finding probable cause to do so.

They also say it creates fear of local law enforcement among immigrant communities, making people less likely to report crimes or cooperate with criminal investigations.

A coalition of nearly 30 Palm Beach County religious congregations — called People Engaged in Active Community Efforts, or PEACE — in March called for Bradshaw to stop complying with the federal immigration detainer requests.

In response, the Sheriff's Office Tuesday announced that it would require "judicial authority" to comply with future federal immigration detainer requests.

The Sheriff's Office will also require an official order of deportation or warrant signed by a federal judge or magistrate to continue holding someone in jail beyond the time required to resolve any local charges.

The new policy came "after a long, thoughtful, and deliberate process" that included meetings with the PEACE, attorneys and federal immigration officials, according to a statement issued Tuesday by the Sheriff's Office.

"This decision in no way will affect the Sheriff's Office commitment to securing our borders from the influx of illegal immigrants attempting to enter the U.S. illegally or the Human Trafficking associated with it," according to the Sheriff's Office.

PEACE praised the change in policy as a savings to taxpayers by lessening incarceration costs as well as help to the immigrant community.

"It's good for our entire Palm Beach County community because people will not be so afraid to go to the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office if they are victims of a crime or witnesses," said Jill Hanson, of PEACE. "They won't be afraid of going to court."

The sheriff's policy change is a "step in the right direction," said Shalini Agarwal, of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida.

The ACLU this month sent Bradshaw a letter saying the Sheriff's Office should stop complying with immigration detention requests to "avoid legal liability, ensure that your agency does not violate the constitutional rights of people in its custody, and encourage cooperation of crime victims and witnesses from the immigrant community."

"It makes sense for the county [to] foster good relationships with people in the immigrant community. That enhances the security of people in the community," Agarwal said Tuesday.

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement maintains that detainer requests are an important way to collaborate with local officials to protect the public from criminals and to promote immigration enforcement.

Also, the Pompano Beach-based group Floridians for Immigration Enforcement opposed the Palm Beach County push to curtail detainer requests. The group argues that more should be done to encourage deportations.

But immigrant advocates counter that Florida's economy, especially Palm Beach County growers, rely on immigrant labor and that local law enforcement shouldn't be enlisted to boost deportations that separate families.

Jill Skok, of the Guatemalan-Maya Center in Lake Worth, said the group is pleased and optimistic about what the change in policy could mean for Palm Beach County residents.

She said the new policy will probably put residents at ease to call the Sheriff's Office and will make the community as a whole safer.

"At the end of the day, [the Sheriff's Office and the center's] missions are the same," Skok said. "We want to protect the community."

Her only worry is how the new policy will be enacted. If the Sheriff's Office doesn't re-educate its deputies, individuals could still tip off ICE agents they're familiar with and not adhere to the policy, she said.

Sun Sentinel staff writer Kate Jacobson contributed to this report. abreid@tribune.com, 561-228-5504 or Twitter@abreidnews