House Hearing Will Examine Illegal Profiling and Police Misconduct by Local Law Enforcement Acting as Federal Immigration Agents

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Linda Paris, (202) 675-2312; media@dcaclu.org

House Hearing Will Examine Illegal Profiling and Police Misconduct by Local Law Enforcement Acting as Federal Immigration Agents

US Department of Homeland Security Should Suspend Agreements With Local and State Law Enforcement, Says ACLU

WASHINGTON - Two
House Judiciary Committee Subcommittees will hold a joint hearing
tomorrow to examine civil rights abuses committed by state and local
police functioning as federal immigration agents. As part of the
hearing entitled, "The Public Safety and Civil Rights Implications of
State and Local Enforcement of Federal Immigration Laws," the American
Civil Liberties Union in written testimony will urge Congress to
suspend all local immigration enforcement agreements that have resulted
in illegal profiling of Latinos and unlawful detention and deportation
of U.S. citizens and permanent residents. 

"Too
many sheriffs, after being deputized as immigration agents, have
treated their new authority as a license to profile and discriminate,"
said Joanne Lin, ACLU Legislative Counsel. "The ACLU has received
complaints across the country of U.S. citizens of Latino appearance
being illegally stopped, detained, arrested, and even deported by local
law enforcement functioning as immigration agents. Immigration law,
like tax law, is very complex and constantly evolving. Since
immigration law is exclusively federal, immigration enforcement belongs
in the hands of the federal government only, not in the hands of county
sheriff's deputies and police officers."
 

Since
2002, the federal government has actively shifted enforcement of civil
immigration law to localities. State, county and local law enforcement
agencies enter into agreements under Section 287(g) of the Immigration
and Nationality Act, in which the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
authorizes local law enforcement officers to perform immigration duties
under the training and supervision of the Bureau of Immigration and
Customs Enforcement (ICE). Unfortunately, the federal government has
completely abandoned its responsibilities to monitor and provide
meaningful oversight of the 287(g) program. Consequently, sheriffs and
police officers who, for example, are not adequately trained or
supervised by ICE often rely on race or ethnicity as reason to suspect
that an individual is undocumented. Any person who looks or sounds
"foreign" is more likely to be stopped by police and more likely to be
arrested, rather than given a warning or let go, when stopped.
 

One
such individual is Julio Mora, a U.S. citizen who was stopped and
arrested by Maricopa County Sheriff's Office ("MCSO") deputies in
February. Despite being a U.S. citizen, Mr. Mora was arrested and
detained for several hours without reasonable suspicion or probable
cause until MCSO could confirm his citizenship. While in MCSO custody,
Mr. Mora was humiliated by deputies who forced him to urinate with his
hands cuffed and then mocked him for not being able to do so. Mr. Mora
will be testifying at the hearing about his experiences at the hands of
MCSO deputies.
The
ACLU, along with Steptoe & Johnson LLP and the Mexican American
Legal Defense and Educational Fund, has sued MCSO for illegal profiling
of Latino motorists in Maricopa County. In February, a federal court
ruled that the class action lawsuit against MCSO will proceed.

"Discriminatory
practices and policies in local enforcement of immigration law have no
place in this country and must be stopped," said ACLU staff attorney
Mónica Ramírez, who is co-counsel in the case and co-authored the
ACLU's written testimony.

"We urge Congress to take steps to make it
unnecessary to bring further litigation on behalf of Latinos who have
been illegally profiled and harassed by local law enforcement for the
purpose of enforcing the immigration laws."
In February, the ACLU of North Carolina co-authored a report entitled, "The Policies and Politics of Local
Immigration Enforcement Laws: 287(g) Program in North Carolina." Katy
Parker, Legal Director of the ACLU of North Carolina, added, "All
across the state, Latinos live in fear of being detained as they go to
work, worship or run any other routine errand. Local law enforcement
agencies have clearly targeted Latinos with immigration checkpoints
near certain trailer parks, churches and flea markets." Deborah
Weissman, law professor at the University of North Carolina,
co-authored the report and will be testifying at tomorrow's hearing.
 

The
ACLU urges Congress to eliminate the 287(g) program and other DHS
programs that permit state and local police to enforce immigration
laws. The ACLU recommends the following initiatives:
 

  • DHS should suspend agreements between localities and ICE pending a comprehensive review of the 287(g) program;
  • Local
    law enforcement age should be required to collect data on all contacts
    with the public as a way to monitor racial profiling;
  • DHS should create a transparent and accessible complaint process for local immigration enforcement; and
  • Congress should pass the End Racial Profiling Act without exemptions for immigration enforcement.

For the ACLU testimony, go to:
http://www.aclu.org/immigrants/gen/39242leg20090401.html
 

For more information about the 287(g) report by the ACLU of North Carolina, go to:
www.law.unc.edu/documents/clinicalprograms/287gpolicyreview.pdf
 

For more details about the Ortega v. Arpaio case, go to:
www.aclu.org/immigrants/gen/35998lgl20080716.html#attach

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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

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