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Developments in 287(g) Enforcement Program Add Urgency to Immigration Reform Fight



Washington, DC - Last week, Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona reportedly signed a curtailed 287(g) agreement with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to allow deputies to enforce immigration laws under the supervision of DHS Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers.  Apparently, while Sheriff Arpaio sought to renew his partnership with ICE to continue his controversial roundups of Latinos and immigrants by Sheriff's Deputies, DHS officials instead renewed only the portion of the agreement that permits immigration enforcement activities at the county jail.  All 287(g) agreements between local law enforcement and DHS aimed at identifying deportable individuals are being reviewed. By October 15, DHS will have signed updated operating agreements with all 287(g) partner jurisdictions.  Already, two jurisdictions in Massachusetts have dropped their 287(g) agreements. Meanwhile, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus wrote to President Obama last week calling on him to terminate the 287(g) program altogether.


The following is a statement by Ali Noorani, Executive Director of the National Immigration Forum, a non-partisan, non-profit pro-immigrant advocacy organization in Washington.


The good news is that Sheriff Arpaio is in the crosshairs of investigations by the Department of Justice, FBI and others regarding his dubious law enforcement methods.  By severely curtailing Arpaio's immigration enforcement authorities, DHS Secretary Napolitano is also questioning Arpaio's effectiveness as a law enforcement officer. 

Accountability, however, is not a halfway measure.


Between the enabling resources granted by the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors and the legal pathways provided by the Arizona legislature, once Arpaio gets an immigrant into his jail he will turn to DHS to deport them if they are undocumented. 

Why do three levels of our nation's government grant authority to a man whose jails have lost accreditation, who has thousands of unserved criminal warrants, is facing thousands of civil rights complaints and who said over this past weekend, "Nothing is going to change."?


Let's be clear, the Department of Homeland Security is cleaning up an utter mess left to them by the previous Administration and by decades of Congressional inaction on immigration reform.  State and local enforcement of immigration laws - both civil and criminal - would not be a difficult or divisive issue if there were a coherent federal policy to regulate immigration and a law enforcement structure to enforce it.  The 287(g) program is a symptom of the bigger disease: a broken immigration system that leaves states and localities to fend for themselves. 

True accountability will come when Congress fixes our immigration system.  Then, all immigrants - and their employers - will pay taxes, law enforcement resources will be used to find real criminals, and no worker will be exploited by a crooked employer.


Until we have comprehensive immigration reform, our valuable tax and public safety resources will be wasted by cowboy sheriffs like Joe Arpaio who are more focused on profiling immigrants for political gain and not protecting the public. 

Without comprehensive immigration reform, programs like 287(g) are a waste of tax dollars and merely serves to destroy communities and families.




Note: The National Immigration Forum is hosting a tele-press conference this week with Rep. Joe Crowley (D-NY) and advocates for immigration reform to discuss the effort Rep. Crowley led to enlist 110 fellow House Democrats in signing onto a letter to President Obama calling for action on comprehensive immigration reform this year.  For more information on that event, contact Katherine Vargas at (202) 383-5987 or (202) 641-5198 (mobile)

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