AIRC: 287(g) program is anti-immigrant, doesn’t make us safer

 Department of Homeland Security logo
ICE is a division of the Department of Homeland Security

ICE, or Immigration and Customs Enforcement, is a federal police agency (part of Homeland Security) responsible for deporting immigrants who came here without permission or whose visas have expired.

ICE has come under fire for a number of issues, including separating families at the border, causing fear in migrant communities and for racial profiling. Recently, they have been accused of further cruel and inhumane practices, including spraying chemicals on immigrants in California (causing skin burns and eye damage) as well as unwanted hysterectomies and “jarring medical neglect at a detention center here in Georgia.

Detainees who complain about this shocking and inhumane treatment are often placed in solitary confinement. Nurses who speak out have been demoted and reprimanded, according to the Guardian.

Even before these abuses were revealed, some prominent Democrats, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, had called for ICE to be abolished. But there’s another way to minimize the damage that ICE does to migrant communities, which is for cities to stop cooperating with them.

Most policing in the US is done on a local or state level. That means to do its job, ICE relies on the cooperation of local police departments and sheriff’s offices. ICE gains this cooperation usually just by asking, but ICE would prefer to develop these relationships even further.

Robert Hare, candidate for Sheriff
Robert Hare, candidate for Sheriff

That’s where the 287(g) program comes in.

287(g) became a local political issue when Robert Hare, a Republican running for Sheriff this year in Athens, declared his support for the program. His opponent, Democrat John Q Williams, does not support the program.

The Athens Immigrant Rights Coalition explains what 287(g) is and gives their opinion on it, which you can read below. -APN

Athens Immigrant Rights Coalition Statement on Policing and the 287(g) Program

We, the Athens Immigrant Rights Coalition (AIRC), vehemently object to excessive, invasive, and discriminatory policing of undocumented immigrants and those perceived to be undocumented, not limited to, but including the 287(g) program. Our law enforcement agencies are not immigration enforcement agencies, nor should they be.

We believe that the 287(g) program and similar calls for greater law enforcement collaboration with ICE are rooted in fundamentally flawed premises and xenophobic beliefs. 

No form of ICE cooperation is acceptable

AIRC continues to confront the legal and social structures that label so many in our communities as “illegal” and educate the public as to why we believe ICE harms our community by enforcing this oppressive system. As legal scholars and immigration activists point out, the legal systems we confront are created, and the categories we create are used to criminalize certain people.

DIA - AIRC May Day rally
An AIRC / DIA rally against deportations on May Day, 2017 (Photo / Wade Sheldon)

Immigrants are not inherently “criminal.” No human is illegal. Borders are constructed.

ICE is a relatively recent creation (2003) that has ramped up the criminalization, detention, and deportation of undocumented people. ICE has no place in our community policing.

ICE relies on the myth of the “criminal immigrant”

The premise that immigrants are more likely than native born citizens to be dangerous criminals is a powerful and harmful myth.

According to the Cato Institute: “All immigrants have a lower criminal incarceration rate and there are lower crime rates in the neighborhoods where they live, according to the near-unanimous findings of the peer-reviewed evidence.” Immigrants commit fewer crimes than U.S.-born people on average, including drug crimes, murders, and acts of terrorism.

White supremacist and far-Right terrorism far exceeds international terrorism. However, the myth that immigrants are more dangerous than other populations is constantly promoted to justify policing, deportation and detention of non-citizens. Non-citizens are often denied due process or subject to additional punishments (deportation) beyond normal sentences for crimes committed.

This is not equal justice under the law. 

What is 287(g)? 

The 287(g) program is a voluntary program created by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that allows state and local law enforcement officers to act as federal immigration officers under the supervision of ICE. Participating officers are allowed to: question individuals about their immigration status, check DHS databases, issue immigration detainers to hold individuals for ICE, enter data into ICE’s database, initiate removal processes, and transfer individuals into ICE custody, among other things. 

Why do we oppose 287(g)?

287(g) doesn’t make us safer

Law enforcement agencies participating in the 287(g) program claim that it makes our communities safer. However, the Migration Policy Institute conducted a comprehensive analysis of the 287(g) program and found that it did not target serious criminal offenders and that more than half of all detainers issued were for misdemeanors and traffic offenses.

Studies from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found that 287(g) agreements in the state were primarily used to target suspects who posed no threat to public safety or individuals with no criminal record. Over 80% of ICE arrests in Georgia counties participating in the 287(g) program are arrests of individuals with no violation or low-level violations.

The 287(g) program is one of the most significant ways community members end up in ICE custody for minor infractions if any at all. For example, in Gwinnett, Cobb, Hall, and Whitfield Counties, over 90% of all ICE arrests originated through the 287(g) program.

287(g) is an anti-immigrant, anti-Latinx political tool

The Migration Policy Institute also found that the 287(g) program may serve as a political tool to pursue anti-immigrant agendas given that sheriffs and other elected officials can use the program to respond to political and partisan calls to “crack down” on immigration. This rhetoric, and the xenophobic intent behind it, makes law enforcement agents into politicians, and unfairly targets undocumented immigrants and anyone perceived to be undocumented.

Justice Department investigations found that sheriff’s deputies in various participating 287(g) departments violated constitutional rights by unlawfully detaining and arresting Latinx people, setting up checkpoints in Latinx neighborhoods, stopping Latinx drivers up to ten times more often and arresting Latinx drivers for traffic violations where non-Latinx drivers received only citations.

Excessive targeting of Latinx and immigrant communities does not make our community safer.

Non-citizens who are victims or witnesses of crimes will be less likely to report. University of North Carolina School of Law found that 287(g) programs create widespread mistrust of law enforcement in Latinx communities, and resulted in stereotyping, harassment, and isolation of an already marginalized group. Detention and deportation of community members for misdemeanors and traffic offenses will create undue emotional and economic hardships for families. 

There are only 6 counties in Georgia that participate in the 287(g) program. Athens-Clarke County is not one. We will fight to ensure it never becomes one.

287(g) will not make us safer; it will subject our friends, families, and neighbors to targeted racialized policing and tear apart our community. 

Law and Policy Committee
The Athens Immigrant Rights Coalition

Originally published on the AIRC website on April, 24 2020.

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