Immigrant Rights Activists Condemn Obama Plan to Expand Use of Local Police to Enforce Immigration Law
On July 10, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced plans to standardize and greatly enlarge the 287(g) program, by which local law enforcement is given money, equipment, and powers to enforce federal immigration law. (See Homeland Security’s press release.)
As the following press release shows, turning immigration enforcement over to local police has led to frequent police abuse, racial profiling, and rapid-fire detentions and deportations.
In a related development, the ACLU has condemned the new standardized Memorandum of Agreement governing local police under the 287(g) plan, as a meaningless gesture to reduce local police abuses, writing “The new standardized MOA makes no serious attempt at discouraging illegal racial profiling or reducing the conflict between sound community policing principles and the expansion of this program.”
As one immigrant rights activist wrote, “More groups and individuals going against the “Washington Consensus” – legalization in exchange for even more enforcement-on immigration. Please distribute this far and wide as the Obama and Napolitano are trying to do this below the clouds-and some fog- of excitement around the Sotomayor confirmation hearings. This is the clearest statement to date of Obama’s willingness to support racist, dangerous and ultimately failed immigration policy. That some of these groups have not previously made statements against Obama and that they waste no time using language still unheard of in echo chamber of Washington (ie;” Condemning”) provides, I think, an interesting preview of where and how Obama’s credibility may rapidly drop in immigrants rights and Latino communities.”
ADVOCATES ISSUE STATEMENT CONDEMNING OBAMA ADMINISTRATION’S
EXPANSION OF DHS’S FAILED 287(g) PROGRAM
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE July 17, 2009
Adela de la Torre, Communication Specialist, National Immigration Law Center, 213.674.2832 (office), 213.400.7822 (cell)
Andrea Black, Coordinator, Detention Watch Network, 202-393-1044 ext. 227 (office), 520-240-3726 (cell)
Judith Greene, Director, Justice Strategies, 718-857-3316, email@example.com
Civil rights and community groups across the country denounce Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano’s plans to expand the highly criticized 287(g) program to eleven new jurisdictions around the country. The program, authorized in 1996 and widely implemented under the Bush Administration, relinquishes, with no meaningful oversight, immigration enforcement power to local law enforcement and corrections agencies.
Since its inception the program has drawn sharp criticism from federal officials, law enforcement, advocates and local community groups. A February 2009 report by Justice Strategies, a nonpartisan research firm, found widespread use of pretextual traffic stops, racially motivated questioning, and unconstitutional searches and seizures by local law enforcement agencies granted 287(g) powers. Justice Strategies recommended the program be suspended. “We found evidence that growth of the 287(g) program has been driven more by racial animus than by concerns about public safety. The expansion of this deeply flawed program cannot be justified before a thorough test of corrective actions shows solid proof that they have been effective,” reports Judy Greene, Director of Justice Strategies. A March 2009 Government Accountability Agency (GAO) report, criticized DHS for insufficient oversight of the controversial program.
Also in March, the United States Department of Justice launched an investigation into Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona, to determine whether Arpaio is using his 287(g) power to target Latinos and Spanish-speaking people. In Davidson County, Tennessee, the Sheriff’s Office has used its 287(g) power to apprehend undocumented immigrants driving to work, standing at day labor sites, or while fishing off piers. One pregnant woman—charged with driving without a license—was forced to give birth while shackled to her bed during labor. Preliminary data indicate that in some jurisdictions the majority of individuals arrested under 287(g) are accused of public nuisance or traffic offenses: driving without a seatbelt, driving without a license, broken taillights, and similar offences. Such a pattern of arrests suggest that local sheriff’s deputies are improperly using their 287(g) powers to rid their counties of immigrants, by making pretextual arrests that are then used to forcefully deport people. “We need only look at the example of Maricopa County to understand the devastating effects the increased 287(g) program will have on our communities,” said Chris Newman, Legal Programs Director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network. “The Obama administration must recognize that the 287(g) program is predatory and ripe for corruption and profiling that will harm community stability and safety for everyone.”
The Police Foundation, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, and the Major Chiefs Association have expressed concerns that deputizing local law enforcement officers to enforce civil federal immigration law undermine the trust and cooperation of immigrant communities, overburdens cities’ already reduced resources, and leaves cities vulnerable to civil liability claims. “When victims and witnesses of crime are afraid to contact police for fear of being jailed or deported, public safety suffers,” said Marielena Hincapie, Executive Director, National Immigration Law Center.
Napolitano’s July 10 announcement that DHS has granted 11 new jurisdictions 287(g) powers stunned advocates who had been expecting a major overhaul of – or end to – this failed program. “DHS is fully aware that the abusive misuse of the 287(g) program by its current slate of agencies has rendered it not only ineffective, but dangerous to community safety. It is surprising Napolitano did not simply shut this program down. Expanding this failed program is not in line with the reform the administration has promised,” said Andrea Black, Coordinator of the Detention Watch Network.
A Better Way Foundation, New Haven, CT
All of Us or None, San Francisco, CA
Border Action Network, Tucson, AZ
Center for Constitutional Rights, New York, NY
Center for Media Justice, Oakland, CA
Detention Watch Network, Washington, D
Families for Freedom, New York, NY
Florida Immigrant Coalition, Miami, FL
Grassroots Leadership, Austin, Texas
Homies Unidos, Los Angeles, CA
Immigrant Defense Project, New York, NY
Immigrant Justice Network
Immigration Law Clinic, UC Davis School of Law, Davis, CA
Immigrant Legal Resource Center, San Francisco, CA
Judson Memorial Church, New York, NY
Justice Strategies, New York, NY
Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, San Francisco, CA
Main Street Project, Minneapolis, MN
Media Action Grassroots Network, Oakland, CA
National Day Laborer Organizing Network
National Immigration Law Center, Los Angeles, CA
National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild, Boston, MA
Partnership for Safety and Justice, Portland, Oregon
Southern Center for Human Rights, Atlanta, GA