Experts call ICE program used by Arpaio a failure
The program, known as 287 (g), has been touted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement as a public-safety measure aimed at removing criminal illegal immigrants. But the Sheriff's Office and other participating agencies have focused on easy targets such as traffic violators and day laborers who pose little threat, says the report by Justice Strategies, a non-profit nonpartisan research group based in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Arpaio defended his participation in the program, which he said has led to the identification of thousands of illegal immigrants.
Though ICE touts the nearly 8-year-old program as a money saver, Arizona taxpayers are footing a greater share of the bill for enforcing immigration laws, usually the responsibility of the federal government, according to the report to be released today. Enforcing immigration laws detracts local police from their primary job of fighting crime and keeping neighborhoods safe, the report says, and race, not crime, has fueled the program's growth in Phoenix and other areas of the country with growing Latino populations.
"It had enough time to prove itself, and it failed," said Aarti Shahani, a researcher with the Justice Strategies group who co-authored the report. "The immigration system is broken, and 287 (g) is not the way to fix it. It's like pouring water into a cup that is broken, and the water keeps leaking out. It isn't doing anything to solve the problem."
The report concludes by recommending that the Obama administration terminate the program, which was created under the Clinton administration but wasn't promoted until after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, under the Bush administration.
The report comes amid growing opposition to Arpaio's immigration crackdowns. The National Day Labor Organizing Network, Somos America and other pro-immigrant groups plan to hold demonstrations on Friday and Saturday in Phoenix and other parts of the country calling for an end to the crackdowns.
Less than two weeks ago, four key Democratic members of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee asked Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate complaints that since Arpaio signed a 287 (g) agreement with ICE in 2007, deputies have unconstitutionally used skin color to look for illegal immigrants as part of a series of crime sweeps and work-site raids. The four Democrats also asked for Napolitano, the former Arizona governor, to terminate Arpaio's agreement if any problems can't be fixed.
Arpaio this week sent a letter to the four Democrats, including U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Michigan, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, saying that his office is abiding by the agreement and inviting them to come see the program for themselves.
Despite the criticism, polls show that Arpaio's crackdowns have broad public support. In November, he was re-elected to his fifth four-year term.
Under the 287 (g) program, Maricopa County sheriff's deputies have arrested 1,434 people for immigration violations, often after they had been encountered by deputies investigating state crimes, Arpaio said.
Michael Keegan, a spokesman for Homeland Security, said the Justice Strategies report would be reviewed.
"The department takes very seriously any allegations of civil-rights abuses, and Secretary Napolitano is undertaking a broad review of all immigration programs, including the 287 (g) agreements," he said.
ICE credits the program with identifying more than 70,000 people suspected of being in the country illegally.
U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee and author of the 287 (g) program, defended it.
"It is astonishing that anyone would want to end a successful, voluntary program that protects American communities from criminal illegal
immigrants," Smith said.
below is the official press release from the group Justice Strategies
ICE Increasingly Shifting Immigration Costs and Abuses to Local Governments
Report: ICE's 287(g) Program Providing No Benefit to Public Safety,
Correlates More to Growing Immigration Populations than Crime Rates
Washington, D.C.-Federal immigration authorities are increasingly abusing a little-known legal clause to shift enforcement costs to local
communities while distracting law enforcement from serious crime, contributing to detainee abuse and negatively impacting public safety, according to a new
report by Justice Strategies. The report is the product of an in-depth investigation of the 287(g) program, which deputizes state and local law enforcement
agencies to enforce federal immigration laws.
"Local Democracy on ICE" examines the history and troubled implementation of 287(g), a program implemented under former President George W. Bush that authorizes criminal justice personnel, including street police, traffic cops, and corrections officers to arrest and incarcerate immigrants without suspicion of a crime. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) justified the project as a public safety effort to get "criminal illegal aliens" off the streets. But, the report finds that 61 percent of ICE-deputized localities have crime rates lower than the national average, while 87 percent have undergone a rate of increase in their Latino population higher than the national average.
• While ICE has touted the program as a crime-fighting tool, its primary target has been day laborers and traffic violators. Studies consistently show that immigrants have a lower crime rate than citizens. Rather than focusing on serious crime, police resources are diverted to arrest and incarcerate law-abiding immigrants.
• The program provides no funds for implementation. It shifts massive immigrant detention costs to local governments, straining already over-crowded jails. Counties find that costs skyrocket because deputized officers routinely arrest and detain immigrants without suspicion of a serious crime, and because ICE fails to pick up detainees in a timely manner. Prince William County, Virginia, for example, has had to raise property taxes and cut police and fire safety budgets to compensate.
• Poor federal oversight has led to rampant abuse. The statute requires that ICE "supervise and direct" all local partners, yet ICE has failed in this duty. ICE gave the largest and most powerful 287(g) contract to Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona. Faced with criticism that he has violated a requirement of his ICE contract by ordering indiscriminate street "sweeps" of Latinos without any trustworthy evidence of criminal activity, Sheriff Arpaio responded, "Do you think I'm going to report to the federal government? I don't report to them." Arpaio detains hundreds of swept-up immigrants in his "Tent City" desert jail.
• Turning cops into immigration officers may actually jeopardize public safety as immigrants fear that calling the police will prompt their own deportation. The Major Cities' Chiefs Association and other community policing proponents oppose the program because it drains resources, complicates police work and does not advance safety.
The report argues that the statute serves no public safety benefit, which is why the majority of municipal governments have opted not to partner with ICE.
"Police already have the legal power they need to arrest anyone suspected of a crime, whether or not they are citizens. The 287(g) program is applied
precisely when law enforcement lacks reasonable suspicion of a crime," explains the report's lead author Aarti Shahani. "The statute is being
applied to corn vendors and people with broken tail-lights. Traffic cops aren't in the business of fighting crime, but now they are in the business of
"The 287(g) program is destined to fail because criminal and civil immigration law enforcement are incompatible enterprises," says Justice Strategies director, Judith Greene. "Imagine if the Internal Revenue Service deputized local police to check the tax records of people pulled over for traffic stops. If the police were filling the jails with people who made mistakes on their tax records, people would rightly complain that critical law enforcement resources were being misapplied. Yet in Phoenix, masses of people are being arrested and jailed by Sheriff Joe's 287(g) "posse" for what are purely civil violations of federal immigration laws."
ICE has used Arizona as its leading laboratory for locally driven civil immigration arrests and detention. Meanwhile, the 287(g) program is spreading across the nation. Salvador Reza, a Phoenix-based leader of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network says, "Arizona has learned the hard way that 287(g) is ripe for abuse. Now that our former governor Janet Napolitano is leading Homeland Security, she can use her new position to save other communities from Arizona's failed experiments."
Maria Rodriguez, director of the Florida Immigrant Coalition warns, "Our state was the first to join this federal program. We have homegrown mini-Sheriff-Arpiaos who commit the same abuses in our backyards. But they operate under the radar. I've seen how 287(g) breaks trust between immigrants and police. It's time to put an end to this program."
For more information or to receive an embargoed copy about the report, contact Laura Jones at (202) 425-4659 (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Eric Wingerter at (202) 243-9995 (email@example.com). Justice Strategies, a project of the Tides Center, Inc., is a nonprofit research organization dedicated to more humane and cost-effective approaches to criminal justice and immigration law enforcement.
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