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La Raza Report: ICE 287g Program A Failure

WASHINGTON - A new report released by NCLR (National Council of La Raza), the largest national Latino civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States, concludes that the 287(g) program is far from the smart immigration enforcement that our country needs. The program was intended to make America safer by aiding in the apprehension and removal of dangerous and criminal undocumented immigrants, but in effect it provides unchecked authority to local law enforcement, entangles the broader immigrant and Latino communities by leading to the arrest of mostly nonviolent and nonthreatening immigrants, and exacerbates racial and ethnic targeting of Hispanics at the local level. The Impact of Section 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act on the Latino Community reveals that the program remains in place despite growing evidence that it undermines public safety, lacks accountability, and weakens communication between police and Latinos.

“As this report shows, the 287(g) program provides compelling evidence that current concerns with Arizona SB 1070—which is strongly opposed by the national civil rights community—are based on experiences with similar, poorly conceived and badly implemented enforcement strategies,” said Eric Rodriguez, Vice President of NCLR’s Office of Research, Advocacy, and Legislation. “There has been minimal attention paid to state-level enforcement programs such as 287(g) that are carrying out federal immigration enforcement, often in very ineffective ways.”

Enacted in 1996, the federal law known as section 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act has grown to include more than 70 local police jurisdictions that have signed agreements with the federal government to deputize local officials to enforce federal immigration law.

Among the report’s findings are:

  • Most of the agreements (61%) are in southern states, which have experienced a rapid growth in new immigrant populations. Although the program was enacted in 1996, it was reframed and expanded as an anti-terrorism tool following September 11, 2001. The agreements are often signed in response to a perceived increase in crime, but the signing typically correlates more to an increase in the immigrant population than it does to high or growing crime rates.
  • The stated priority of the program is to apprehend those who pose the greatest threat, but in many instances, the people arrested have no criminal history or are detained for offenses such as traffic stops, or even playing loud music.
  • The program outsources federal enforcement without proper training, oversight, or accountability. Deputized officers are required to undergo four to five weeks of training with little follow-up training, while their federal counterparts are trained for four to five months with follow-up training.
  • The program has led to a clear deterioration of the relationship between Hispanics and the police. An NCLR survey conducted in partnership with the Tennessee Immigrant Refugee Rights Coalition in Davidson County, Tennessee, where a 287(g) agreement was signed in 2007, found that 42% of Latino respondents said they knew of a crime that had not been reported to the police, in many cases out of fear of possible deportation.
  • In the same Davidson County survey regarding community willingness to approach police, among Blacks and Latinos of similar economic and living situations, more than half (54%) of Latino respondents said they would not report a crime and 27% of Black respondents said the same.

Despite the serious and numerous concerns raised by federal offices such as the Government Accountability Office and the Office of Inspector General, the Obama administration continues to maintain and expand the 287(g) program.

Recommendations in the report include:

  • The 287(g) program should be terminated. NCLR supports smart enforcement measures that make the best use of available resources by removing dangerous criminals from communities. This program’s record shows that it does not do that.
  • Congress must require meaningful reporting from and oversight of all federal immigration enforcement programs, including programs such as Secure Communities.
  • The Department of Homeland Security and local police should proactively work to strengthen relationships with local communities and work to protect victims and witnesses of crimes.
  • Congress and the president must work to overhaul the immigration system



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