While President Joe Biden pledged as a candidate that he would terminate all 287(g) agreements entered into by the previous administration, that pledge has largely remained unfulfilled. This is the very problematic Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) program that allows local law enforcement to cosplay as mass deportation agents.
But a deeply troubling report this week should give the administration all the reasons it needs to act. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said that a review revealed at least 59% of participating sheriffs have records of racist, anti-immigrant rhetoric, including one North Carolina sheriff who demanded his deputies “go out there and get me some of those taco eaters.”
The ACLU said that while ICE terminated Sheriff Terry Johnson’s 287(g) contract following a 2012 lawsuit from Justice Department, he won it back under the insurrectionist administration.
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“From the beginning, ICE signed 287(g) agreements with sheriffs who ran on anti-immigrant campaign platforms and sought to participate in the program as a ‘political trophy in local anti-immigration campaigns,’” the report said. These arrangements also far precede the insurrectionist administration, with ICE entering into a 2007 agreement with Rogers, Arkansas, after it was sued for illegally harassing Latino residents.
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“ICE signed an agreement with Frederick County, Maryland Sheriff Charles (‘Chuck’) Jenkins in 2008 after he ran on an anti-immigrant platform that included a warning that ‘aliens’ were moving to Frederick County from Northern Virginia—and a pledge that he would ‘shoot them right back,’” the report continued.
Jenkins also claimed that “the single biggest threat to our country is the immigration problem.” But if you’re Latino and in Frederick County, the biggest threat is more likely Jenkins. Just last year, he was forced to apologize to a Latina racially profiled by his department. Sara Haidee Aleman Medrano was pulled over for a supposed broken taillight that actually wasn’t broken at all. Deputies then contacted ICE. Under the settlement, the county also agreed to pay the harassed woman $125,000.
The ACLU noted that the Obama administration took decisive action to begin winding down 287(g) agreements, with Congress slashing the program’s funding by nearly half. “By the end of the Obama administration, only 34 local agencies remained in the program.”
So, so close. But the next administration “exponentially expanded the 287(g) program, leaving it five times bigger by the end of its term and responsible for two and a half times as many deportations as before,” the report said. The ACLU said that as the insurrectionist administration was publicly appealing to anti-immigrant sheriffs to join the program, it was also “dropping civil rights investigations into local law enforcement agencies and even publicly encouraging police brutality.”
Sheriffs have campaigned, and won, on ending these racist agreements. In Cobb County, Georgia, immigrant communities have said they’ve been able to breathe a little easier. “They say it’s a relief, that they can leave their homes with less stress, knowing they will be able to come back at the end of the day and have dinner with their family and see their kids,” Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights’ Adelina Nicholls told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution earlier this year.
However, during a hearing last summer, the president’s nominee to head ICE, Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez, indicated it would not be his intent to end this program. But to continue this policy would go against the president’s pledge to usher in a more humane immigration system. In its recommendations, the ACLU said the Biden administration should end the program entirely, beginning with the more than 50 agencies identified as having particularly egregious records.
Naureen Shah, senior legislative counsel for the ACLU, said in a statement received by Daily Kos that by continuing these agreements, “President Biden is sending a message that he sanctions and approves of these abuses.”
“The Biden administration is also undermining its own efforts to repair the harm inflicted by the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant agenda as well as its promise to hold law enforcement accountable for violating the law,” Shah continued. “The Biden administration should immediately cease working with these agencies, whose conduct is antithetical to the Biden administration’s vision for the country.” Click here to send the president a message urging him to end ICE’s harmful 287(g) program.
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