New DHS Rules Disappoint Immigrants’ Advocates
New Department of Homeland Security agreements governing state and local police departments’ enforcement of immigration laws are not relieving their critics’ concerns.
Known as 287(g) authority because of the section of the immigration law that authorizes it, this delegation of federal law enforcement power to local police has sparked strong criticism from immigrants’ rights advocates for failing to prioritize the most serious crimes and allowing local sheriffs, like the notorious Joe Arpaio of Arizona, to target immigrants for the most minor crimes and allegedly engage in racial profiling.
The new standardized memorandum of understanding between DHS and local police, according to DHS, “defines the objectives of the 287(g) program, outlines the immigration enforcement authorities granted by the agreement and provides guidelines for ICE’s supervision of local agency officer operations, information reporting and tracking, complaint procedures and implementation measures.”
But the new agreement isn’t satisfying immigrants’ rights advocates.
“Not in there is how they’ll enforce those objectives and priorities,” said Joan Friedland, Policy Director for the National Immigration Law Center. It’s also not clear how they’ll prevent racial profiling, she noted, or whether they’ll start keeping relevant statistics to try to track it. Plus, the new agreement, in an effort to prevent local authorities from using criminal laws as a pretext for picking up immigrants for deportation, now requires law enforcement to pursue criminal charges to their resolution. Advocates say it’s not clear what that means.
“Will police interpret that as, we have to convict people? What happens to deferred prosecution?” asked Friedland. In the past, police could defer prosecution for a minor crime in exchange for a monitored period of good behavior.
The American Civil Liberties Union today released a statement expressing its disappointment with the new agreement.
“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,” said Omar Jadwat, staff attorney with the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project. “The Department of Homeland Security has claimed that the new MOA contains many significant improvements, but now that we actually have the document, it is clear that many of the claimed changes are really not changes at all, that the remaining changes have little or no positive operative effect, and that the new MOA actually takes several disturbing steps backward, particularly in the area of transparency.”
Update: This afternoon a group of 25 civil rights and community groups issued a statement denouncing DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano’s plans to expand the 287(g) program to 11 more jurisdictions around the country.
Here’s the statement of Andrea Black, Coordinator of the Detention Watch Network:
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.