Thesis: Although countries have the right and legitimate reasons to discourage illegal immigration – prevent dangerous criminal aliens from entering the country thereby protecting its citizens – I believe the use of 287(g) programs to specifically achieve such goal by the Federal government to enforce immigration laws only leads to several unintended consequences such as racial profiling, civil rights violations and distrust between police and local communities etc.
There is little doubt that America is a country of immigrants. Many of its citizens today can trace their lineage to other geographic areas all over the world. They come in pursuit of the so called “American Dream.” After all, who wouldn’t want to be in a land where success and prosperity is virtually guaranteed to everyone if they work hard, in a society with very little obstacles? Yet, presently, few other topics are as hotly debated in the nation as immigration – specifically, illegal immigration and what to do about it. Several programs have been suggested, put in place, tried and failed. While much of these programs aim to stop illegal immigrants before they arrive in the country, some programs target those who are already inside the country. One of such programs involves the recruitment of local law enforcement to help enforce federal immigration policies under section 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (1NA).
Many Americans believe illegal immigration must be stopped at any cost for the safety of the country and all Americans. Some believe that the 287(g) is a smart and effective way of using existing law enforcement to that end. The federal immigration reform adopted in 1996 set the stage for today’s localized immigration enforcement efforts by delegating federal immigration powers to state and local governments for the first time through the 287(g) (Potochnick, Chen, & Perreira 2017). Section 287(g) of the INA allows the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to enter into formal written agreements (Memoranda of Agreement or MOAs) with state or local police departments and deputize selected state and local law enforcement officers to perform the functions of federal immigration agents (American Immigration Council 2017). Local law enforcement, while doing regular policing activities, can arrest, detain and hand over anyone suspected of violating federal immigration laws to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Although countries have the right and legitimate reasons to discourage illegal immigration – prevent dangerous criminal aliens from entering the country thereby protecting its citizens – I believe the use of 287(g) programs to specifically achieve such goal by the Federal government to enforce immigration laws only leads to several unintended consequences such as racial profiling, civil rights violations and distrust between police and local communities etc.
Section 287(g) of the INA was primarily intended to target criminal offenders. However, in recent years, some localities have used it to target all undocumented immigrants. Local law enforcement activities now include business and homes of persons believed to be undocumented raids, driver’s license checkpoints, and conducting traffic stops for minor offenses. All these have unfairly targeted Hispanic communities. It has been concluded that local immigration enforcement can affect household food insecurity in three ways: First, deportations from 287(g) and other localized immigration enforcement efforts increase the economic disadvantage of family members left behind. Second, deportations also increase fear and mistrust among immigrants, which may reduce immigrant use of social services, such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance program and Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, that protect against food insecurity. Third, fears of deportation, family separation, and police harassment also decrease unauthorized immigrants’ mobility and increase their social isolation and emotional distress —all of which have implications for food insecurity (Potochnick, Chen, & Perreira 2017).
Civil rights violations may be another unintended consequence stemming from the enforcement of 287(g). In Vol 104, No.2 of The Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, Maureen Sweeny introduces the term “shadow immigration enforcement.” Shadow immigration enforcement occurs when state or local police officers with no immigration enforcement authority exercise their regular police powers in a distorted way for the purpose of increasing federal immigration enforcement. This might involve disproportionately singling out members of “”foreign or stereotypical looking “” populations for reasons outside of of alleged involvement in criminal activity as described under state statute. With the rollout of the Priority Enforcement Program, immigration officials use arrests to check the immigration status of every person arrested anywhere in the country. Any illegal arrested even for minor offenses like traffic violations or nonviolent misdemeanors immediately become eligible for deportation. Local police are authorized to question and ascertain citizenship and Immigration status and if identified as deportable, detained for while they await deportation proceedings. For immigration enforcement officials, arrests function as a way of determining whether the arrested individual falls within an immigration removal priority (Jain 2015).
State officers in numerous local jurisdictions have been found to use the enforcement of criminal or traffic laws as a pretext for targeting those suspected of having unlawful immigration status, often based on observable ethnic or racial characteristics. The majority of undocumented immigrants tend to come from Latin American countries and as such, are the most affected by unfair policing methods. Amada Armenta’s book, Protect, Serve, and Deport: The Rise of Policing as Immigration Enforcement, highlights the role of local law enforcement agencies in channeling Latino immigrants into the deportation regime and documents the implementation of 287(g) in Nashville, Tennessee. During the time period the author studies (2007 to 2012), the Davidson County jail became one of the most active deportation machines in the nation, deporting nearly 10,000 Nashville residents (Eagly 2018).
A 2-year Department of Justice (DOJ) study in Alamance, North Carolina concluded the sheriff’s office engaged in a prevalent pattern of biased policing targeted against Latinos. The study included statistics and records review; review of policies. Procedures, and training materials; and over 125 interviews. Among other problems, DOJ found that Latino drivers were targeted for traffic enforcement at a rate between four and ten times greater than non-Latino drivers. In a letter from the Assistant Attorney General of the Civil Rights Division of the U.S DOJ found that the Alamance County Sheriff’s Office (ACSO) targeted Latinos for traffic stops and with vehicle checkpoints. He also found that the ACSO, at the direction of the sheriff, discriminated against Latinos in its checkpoint practices, as well as its jail booking detention procedures. Specifically, Sheriff Terry S. Johnson is quoted to having said: If you stop a Mexican, don’t write a citation, arrest him.”” (Perez 2012). Another DOJ study of Maricopa County, another 287(g) jurisdiction, also found the same troubling pattern of racial-based profiling of Latinos.
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- Potochnick, Stephanie, Jen-hao Chen, and Krista Perreira. “”Local-Level Immigration Enforcement and Food Insecurity Risk among Hispanic Immigrant Families with Children: National-Level Evidence.”” Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health, vol. 19, no. 5, 2017, pp. 1042-1049. ProQuest, https://login.proxy078.nclive.org/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/1933456232?accountid=11099, doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10903-016-0464-5.
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- Roles, Rocio, Stacy C. Moak, and Tusty Ten Bensel. “”Perceptions of Police among Hispanic Immigrants of Mexican Origin in the Southeast United States.””American Journal of Criminal Justice : AJCJ, vol. 41, no. 2, 2016, pp. 202-219. ProQuest, https://login.proxy078.nclive.org/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/1783933819?accountid=11099, doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s12103-015-9299-1.
- Sweeney, Maureen A. “”SHADOW IMMIGRATION ENFORCEMENT AND ITS CONSTITUTIONAL DANGERS.”” Journal of Criminal Law & Criminology, vol. 104, no. 2, 2014, pp. 227-282. ProQuest, https://login.proxy078.nclive.org/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/1526947798?accountid=11099.
- The 287(g) Program: An Overview.” American Immigration Council, 12 Aug. 2017, www.americanimmigrationcouncil.org/research/287g-program-immigration.