Thursday, October 08, 2009

Spinning Out of Control: Tangle of Local Agreements Dodge Immigration Coherence

"The 287(g) program is not a fundamental solution nor does it ensure community safety. It’s not just the cost factor, but the constitutional and civil liberties factors that must be subject to general public scrutiny.” Christian Ramirez, AFSC staff

State and local enforcement agencies have increasingly come under fire for cooperation agreements with federal agencies, and specifically, agreements in which local officers act as federal immigration agents. A routine traffic stop becomes the moment when a driver is questioned and subsequently asked to show proof of permanent residency or “legal” immigration status.

Known as the “287(g)” program, the initiative is a troubling remnant of the Bush era. The program has raised legal hackles and warranted concerns about racial profiling, civil liberties and public safety. AFSC has been at the forefront of the many faith-based voices calling for an end to this controversial and ill-conceived program. Over the past years, federal officials have tossed a financial carrot by using the program to provide support to cash-strapped municipalities and states.

Named for the section of the federal provision, 287(g) allows for federal agencies (e.g., US Immigration and Customs Enforcement) to train and deputize local officers who can then enforce immigration laws. The program, however, has instilled fear and tension in immigrant communities and led to ongoing concerns about public safety and overall community security.

This past summer AFSC joined more than 500 organizations in an open letter, which called on President Obama to end the program. Early last week the U.S. Congressional Hispanic Caucus also blasted the program calling on the President to terminate the 287(g) program. According to the Caucus, “... [T]he “misuse of the 287(g) program by its current participants has rendered it ineffective and dangerous to community safety.”

Initial support for the program has waned as state leaders realize that comprehensive national policy (rather than a piecemeal approach) is needed to repair the out-of-order immigration system. Concerns have been expressed about due process, legal liabilities, cost-effectiveness and the program’s efficiency.

Indeed, Massachusetts and Florida enforcement agencies have cancelled their agreements while others are debating if to accept – or reject – their agreement with federal officials. Amy Gottlieb, an attorney and AFSC staff member concludes, “The entire immigration law needs to be revamped so that we're not stuck in this system of arresting, detaining and deporting people without giving them meaningful access to a due process or real legal status."

ADD YOUR VOICE: Call for an end to the 287(g) program!
  • Contact the White House switchboard at 202-456-1414 or 202-456-1111.
  • Send the President an e-mail:
  • Contact members of your Congressional delegation. Call your Senator at 202-224-3121 and your Representative at 202-225-3121.