LatinaLista — One of the most controversial components of local immigration enforcement is the 287 (g) program. It is a program that partners local law enforcement with ICE. Federal officials train selected police personnel to enforce federal immigration law.
According to a page on the ICE website that hasn’t been updated since August 18, 2008, more than 840 officers have been trained and certified through the 287 (g) program. It is the main weapon of the infamous Maricopa County Sheriff in his daily hunts for undocumented immigrants.
While on the surface this program looks like it’s a boon for the nation’s security, it has failed local taxpayers because law enforcement authorized to implement 287 (g) spend less time responding to common crimes committed against their own citizens.
Well, tomorrow 287 (g) will be given the review that is long overdue by the House Committee on Homeland Security. For the first time since the program has been implemented, officials will look to see what are the costs versus the benefits of the program.
Such a move signals some hope that immigration reform is underway, if only in baby steps.
Evaluating the 287 (g) program may be an easier task than congressional representatives think. There is tangible evidence that the costs of the 287 (g) program has taken a toll on city coffers and public safety.
One of the first objective sources of the disparity over the real benefits of the 287 (g) was found in an Arizona newspaper series that chronicled Sheriff Arpaio’s actions. In Part IV of the series Reasonable Doubt, East Valley Tribune reporters found:
Response times, arrest rates, investigations and other routine police work throughout Maricopa County have suffered over the past two years as Sheriff Joe Arpaio turned his already short-handed and cash-strapped department into an immigration enforcement agency, a Tribune investigation found.
Response times on life-threatening emergencies have slowed across the county, with residents on average waiting 10 minutes or more in most patrol districts. The County Board of Supervisors has set five minutes as the expected standard.
Detectives’ arrest rate on criminal investigations plunged, from 10 percent in 2005 to 3.5 percent last year.
These are common complaints of those cities where local law enforcement opted into the 287 (g) program.
The Immigration Policy Center released a report today entitled Local Enforcement of Immigration Laws Through the 287(g)Program: Time, Money, and Resources Don’t Add Up to Community Safety where a detailed analysis of the true impact of the 287 (g) program on local communities is weighed against what the original intent of the program.
Among their findings are:
Prince William County, VA had to raise property taxes and take from its â€œrainy dayâ€ fund to help fund their 287(g) program. Their local law enforcement of immigration, which cost $6.4 million in its first year, is projected to cost $26 million over five years. They eventually slashed $3.1 million from the budget that was intended to buy video cameras for police cars to protect themselves against allegations of racial profiling.
287(g)â€™s have “created a climate of racial profiling and community insecurity” in communities across North Carolina. Law enforcement officials have stated time and time again that trust with immigrant communities is crucial to preventing and investigating crimes and leads to safer communities. Anecdotal evidence from North Carolina points to undocumented residents being less likely to contact law enforcement to report crimes.
Justifying 287(g) agreements as a crime-stopping measure does not hold water. Some localities claim they need a partnership with ICE to combat rising crime rates. However, Justice Strategies found that 61% had a violent crime index lower than the national average, and 55% witnessed an overall decrease in violent crimes from 2000 to 2006. Furthermore, 61% had a property crime index lower than the national average, and 65% saw an overall decrease in property crimes from 2000 to 2006.
Justice Strategies found that 87% of the jurisdictions with 287(g) agreements had a rate of Latino population growth higher than the national average.
Tomorrow’s full committee hearing is called â€œExamining 287(g): The Role of State and Local Law Enforcement in Immigration Lawâ€
From its title, it’s easy to see that there will be a showdown between both sides of the issue over the effectiveness of the program but there is one factor that clearly points to the failure of the program â€” the fact that:
â€¦while the 287(g) partnership program with DHS was intended to target immigrants convicted of violent crimes, human smuggling, gang/organized crime activity, sexual-related offenses, narcotics smuggling, and money laundering, the federal/local partnerships are actually being used to â€œpurge towns and cities of â€˜unwelcomeâ€™ immigrants.â€
It is a sad reality that we see repeated in towns like Farmers Branch, Texas to Maricopa County Arizona and throughout the nation. Undocumented immigrants are being stopped and detained on pretexts of committing minor crimes just so they can be brought into the jails to determine their legal status.
It’s not known what the House committee plans on doing with their findings – whether they will make recommendations for greater accountability from local law enforcement for each arrest they make and greater oversight from ICE officials or recommend that the program be scrapped.
But one thing is certain â€” undocumented immigrants, not guilty of serious crimes, are being targeted. In the process, so are Latino Americans. A better way to get the real criminal element off the street is needed without compromising the Constitutional rights of the Latino citizens.
It’s time for a program that while enforcing the law exercises not only good judgement, but operates in good conscience.
The hearing on the 287 (g) program takes place at 2 p.m. EST and will be live streamed online.