Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Program Meant to Focus on Serious Offenders Expanding Scope and Priorities

 

A new report from the Migration Policy Institute (MPI), a nonpartisan think tank, examines how jurisdictions are using the 287(g) program.  The program authorizes the Federal government to enter agreements with state and local law enforcement to act as immigration law enforcement officers. 

The purpose of 287(g) is to concentrate on removing immigrants who have committed serious crimes or who pose considerable public threat. However, MPI has found that some of these programs are turning over almost all undocumented immigrants taken into custody, even those stopped for minor infractions.

The report highlights seven of the 72 jurisdictions across the country which have curren agreements to run a 287(g) program.  It also used data gathered from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Marc Rosenblum, one of the authors of the report, said, “There is an important question of how to target and properly focus enforcement. Although ICE has talked about its desire to prioritize certain types of immigrants for enforcement … states and localities are setting the priorities.”

In Oklahoma’s Tulsa County, the program issued 755 detainers for suspected undocumented immigrants from October 2009 to August 2010.  Of those, traffic violations accounted for the detainment of half of those suspected of being undocumented immigrants. Felonies like rape and drug crimes were the most serious offenses with 212 detainers; 162 were misdemeanor offenses. The remaining had no crime listed.

“The majority of detainers we place are because a person illegally entered the U.S. When law enforcement officers around Tulsa County stop an undocumented person for any reason, they take them to jail. Most of them aren’t picked up on violent criminal charges,” said the coordinator of Tulsa County’s program, Sgt. Shannon Clark.

“When we stop them we’re not going to cut them free and let them go, especially if we can’t positively identify them,” Clark continued.

Critics of the program suggest this allows for racial profiling and civil rights violations. They also argue that a failure to prioritize and target serious criminals will likely result in immigrant communities that mistrust local law enforcement and may even be less willing to report crimes.

Another of the study’s authors, Randy Capps said, “In the long run, it’s a difficult and untenable position to be in and will drive a lot of immigrants underground.”

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Migration Policy Institute