For several election cycles now, voters across the country have ousted sheriffs who’ve collaborated with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) through the flawed and racist 287(g) program, which allows local law enforcement to act as mass deportation agents. In just one example last month, South Carolina Sheriff Kristin Graziano terminated the agreement on her first day in office, calling it “legal racial profiling.”
Dozens of House Democrats are now calling on Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Sec. Alejandro Mayorkas to go even further, and scrap the policy entirely. They explain in the letter that 287(g) and other anti-immigrant policies “turn local law enforcement agencies into a gateway to deportation, co-opt local resources into questionable, racially discriminatory purposes, strip communities of safety and public trust, and subject localities and the federal government to liability.” It needs to go.
The policy existed prior to the previous administration but grew in size under it, turning local sheriffs into the anti-immigrant agenda’s “most enthusiastic foot soldiers,” Mother Jones reported last year. Immigrants have been separated from their families and turned over to ICE for reasons as minor as forgetting to use a blinker. These agreements have in fact been harmful to everybody, lawmakers noted in their letter to Mayorkas.
“Numerous studies show that people experiencing domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking and other crimes are afraid to access urgently needed police protection, serve as witnesses and support law enforcement investigations—undermining public safety for all,” they write. “Other studies emphasize that when cities adopt aggressive immigrant control programs such as 287(g) they not only fail to decrease crime, but they in fact make communities less safe and undermine local economies.”
If DHS is skeptical of all that, it can just take it from its own agency. When Democrat Keybo Taylor ran for sheriff in Georgia’s Gwinett County on a promise to end its 287(g) agreement, The Appeal reports ICE threatened to “assign five senior agents to Gwinnett and target businesses, job sites, and apartments” if the agreement were to be terminated. Taylor refused to budge—and won his election. Like Graziano, Taylor ended the agreement immediately after taking office. “Gwinnett County, you spoke and I listened,” he said according to Gwinnett Daily Post. “We’re replacing these programs with a couple of initiatives that will address some problems that concerns our community.”
”It is time to discard these broken programs of yesteryear,” legislators continued. “In particular, we urge you to immediately fulfill the president’s commitment to end 287(g) agreements entered into by the Trump administration, and to go further by dismantling the 287(g) program altogether.”
Lawmakers also urged DHS to end the “Secure Communities” program, as well as the use of unconstitutional ICE detainers. The former “gave federal agents access to the fingerprints of individuals booked into jail by local and state authorities,” Politico reports. Secure Communities was piloted under George W. Bush before being expanded, then ended, by Barack Obama. The previous president then revived it.
ICE detainers, meanwhile, have resulted in settlements totaling into the millions of dollars, after immigrants have been unlawfully held by police past their release date so ICE can come pick them up. “This is a very significant settlement,” American Civil Liberties Union attorney Jennie Pasquarella told The Washington Post last year, “and it is hopefully a wake-up call to law enforcement agencies around the country who continue to hold people for ICE.”
“The current immigration enforcement regime depends on the time and resources of local law enforcement agencies—at the expense of public safety for all and in particular for immigrant communities,” legislators said. “The 287(g) and Secure Communities programs and the use of detainers turn local law enforcement agencies into a gateway to deportation, co-opt local resources into questionable, racially discriminatory purposes, strip communities of safety and public trust, and subject localities and the federal government to liability.”
“For these reasons, we respectfully urge you to end these programs and practices—and launch a new era of a more just and welcoming immigration enforcement system divorced from local law enforcement agencies,” they concluded. Click here for a full list of letter signatories.