Here’s Why ICE Should Not Renew Contracts That Allow Sheriffs To Become Immigration Agents

Posted on March 17, 2016 by Zenén Jaimes Pérez – Policy & Advocacy Analyst, United We Dream

United We Dream Leader holding sign during protest against 287g in Austin Texas
Members of University Leadership Initiative, our affiliate in Austin, demanding an end to 287g outside of a fundraiser that President Obama was attending.
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This week, an Internal Advisory Committee for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will begin the process of reviewing all 32 of the currently active 287(g) Memorandum of Agreements (MOA) that are set to expire in June, 2016 and it will also consider adding six more locations to the program.

Even though the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and ICE have made small efforts to address the many criticisms surrounding the 287(g) program, there are still serious problems about racial profiling, abuse of incarcerated individuals, and poor transparency. Instead of reviews, DHS and ICE should listen to the over 60 organizations that recommended to terminate all existing 287(g) MOAs with state and local law enforcement agencies and reject all pending applications for new 287(g) agreements.

The 287(g) program is a section of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) of 1996 that allows the federal government to delegate immigration enforcement powers to state and local law enforcement – this means local law enforcement agencies can screen people’s immigration status, issue detainers, and begin the process of deportation. By taking immigration enforcement decisions out of the hands of judges, the 287(g) program is one of many federal programs that undermines due process for all individuals.

Map of all current of all active and proposed 287g contracts
Current map of all active and proposed 287(g) contracts around the country.

At a yearly cost of over $13 million a year, the 287(g) program, has resulted in thousands of deportations as well as racially motivated questioning of individuals, pre-textual traffic stops, and unconstitutional searches and seizures in communities of color. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has said that “287(g) agreements open up the possibility of racial profiling” and even the Department of Justice (DOJ) said that Arizona’s Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office engaged in constitutional violations, including racial profiling of Latinos, after entering into a, now terminated, 287(g) agreement.

In one particularly shocking example of these violations, a young undocumented immigrant was held for 45 days in the Harris County jail awaiting the results of a DUI blood test, that ultimately found him innocent. During this time, he was unable to post bond release due to the 287(g) program and he suffered one week in solitary confinement simply because he was gay.

In addition to racial profiling and civil rights violations, the 287(g) program causes serious harm to the safety of immigrant communities. The Migration Policy Institute examined the effects of the 287(g) program in several communities, and found that law enforcement officials and community residents both say that immigrants are less likely to report crimes in jurisdictions operating 287(g) agreements.

Ultimately, the 287(g) program creates an atmosphere that leads to serious civil rights violations and racial profiling, diminished due process, unjust detention and deportations, and it harms community trust in unbiased law enforcement by entangling police with immigration enforcement. It is time for DHS and ICE to end this failed program.

Zenén Jaimes Pérez is the Policy & Advocacy Analyst for United We Dream. Follow him @zenenjaimes

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