ACLU Demands Disclosure of New Parameters for Flawed State and Local Immigration Enforcement Program

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Maria Archuleta, (212) 519-7808; media@aclu.org   
Linda Paris, (202) 675-2312; media@dcaclu.org

ACLU Demands Disclosure of New Parameters for Flawed State and Local Immigration Enforcement Program

Federal 287(g) Initiative Results in Illegal Profiling and Threatens Public Safety

WASHINGTON - The
American Civil Liberties Union filed a Freedom of Information Act
request Tuesday for new documents governing the continued delegation to
state and local law enforcement agencies of federal immigration
enforcement authority. The fundamentally flawed program has been
associated with serious civil rights abuses and public safety concerns.

 

Secretary
Janet Napolitano announced Friday that the Department of Homeland
Security had developed a new standardized Memorandum of Agreement (MOA)
for use when it delegates immigration enforcement authority to specific
agencies under Section 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act.
She also announced that DHS had entered into new MOAs with 11
additional law enforcement agencies. However, DHS refused requests by
journalists and the public to release the 11 recently-signed MOAs and
the new standardized agreement, even though DHS routinely made 287(g)
MOAs public under the Bush administration.
 

"No
amount of tinkering with the 287(g) program is likely to solve the fact
that it threatens public safety and undermines the basic guarantee of
equal treatment by increasing profiling of people who look or sound
‘foreign,'" said Omar Jadwat, staff attorney with the ACLU Immigrants'
Rights Project. "Still, DHS's refusal to disclose these new documents
is a disappointing and legally unsupportable step back from with
Bush administration practice and makes it impossible to fully evaluate
the changes to this highly controversial program. DHS should
immediately release the documents we have requested."
 

The
ACLU has long sought to end the 287(g) agreements between DHS and state
or local agencies that are, by design, fundamentally flawed.  The
287(g) agreements have encouraged illegal racial profiling and civil
rights abuses as well as the mistaken and unlawful detention and
deportation of U.S. citizens and permanent residents, as reflected in a
series of lawsuits, all while diverting scarce resources from
traditional local law enforcement functions.
 

"Enforcement
of immigration law, like tax law, belongs exclusively to the federal
government.  One body of immigration law governs the entire country;
those laws are written and passed by Congress and should be enforced by
federal law enforcement, not by local and state police," said Joanne
Lin, ACLU Legislative Counsel. "There is a specialized federal agency
to focus on immigration enforcement - DHS - just as there is a
specialized federal agency to focus on tax compliance and enforcement -
the IRS.  State and local police do not pull drivers over for tax law
violations; likewise they should not pull drivers over for immigration
law violations. The 287(g) program has proven to be a failure --
resulting in rampant illegal
profiling by local police under the cloak of federal immigration
enforcement power. DHS needs to terminate, not tweak, the 287(g)
program." 

This
past April, the Police Foundation, a leading nonpartisan, research and
training nonprofit dedicated to improving public safety, reported that
many sheriffs and police chiefs across the country disapprove of the
local immigration enforcement program. According to the Police
Foundation study, law enforcement executives believe that "immigration
enforcement by local police undermines their core public safety
mission, diverts scarce resources, increases their exposure to
liability and litigation, and exacerbates fear in communities already
distrustful of police." 
 

In
recent months, Congress held two oversight hearings and heard from U.S.
citizens who have been profiled and detained by local police acting
under 287(g) programs.  In addition to charges of 287(g) program
"mismanagement" by the Government Accountability Office, the DHS
Inspector General has undertaken an audit of the 287(g) program and the
Department of Justice has launched a civil rights investigation into
the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, which has an extensive 287(g)
program. 
 

In February, a federal court decided that a class action lawsuit, Ortega Melendres v. Arpaio,
could proceed against Sheriff Joe Arpaio. In that case, the ACLU is
co-counsel for Latino plaintiffs who were subjected to racial profiling
and police misconduct by the Sheriff's Office in Maricopa County,
Arizona, a jurisdiction with the most aggressive 287(g) program in the
country.  In another case, the ACLU has sued on behalf of Pedro Guzman,
a U.S. citizen born in California, who was illegally deported under Los
Angeles County Sheriff Office's 287(g) program. These cases are still
pending.
 

"If
the Department of Homeland Security cannot recognize failure when
everyone else involved sees it, Congress should exercise its oversight
and monitoring responsibilities to end the 287(g) program," added
Lin. "Minor modifications are not enough to fix this fundamentally
flawed program."
 

The ACLU's FOIA request can be found at: http://www.aclu.org/immigrants/gen/40308lgl20090714.html
 

For the DHS release about the revamped and expanded 287 (g) program, go to http://www.dhs.gov/ynews/releases/pr_1247246453625.shtm
 

For ACLU's submitted testimony on 287 (g) program, go to:
http://www.aclu.org/immigrants/gen/39062leg20090304.html 

For ACLU report on racial and ethnic profiling in America, go to
http://www.aclu.org/intlhumanrights/racialjustice/40055pub20090629.html
 

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

For more details about the Guzman case, go to
http://www.aclu-sc.org/releases/view/102796

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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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