(EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been updated with a response from ICE.)
McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — A new ACLU report alleges civil rights violations, anti-immigrant hate and examples of racial profiling against Black and brown communities by some law enforcement agencies that partner with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) through a federal program that allows local police departments to arrest migrants on immigration violations.
It’s called the 287(g) Program and it gets its name because it is authorized through Section 287 of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996. That section confers federal authority to partnering state and local police organizations to arrest a person on an immigration violation, which is typically a federal, not state or local, jurisdiction.
The ACLU report, “License to Abuse: How ICE’s 287(g) Program Empowers Racist Sheriffs and Civil Rights Violations,” says that the number of partnerships between ICE and local and state law enforcement agencies has not diminished since President Joe Biden took office, and instead has increased since the Trump administration.
The report claims that race-based rhetoric was used by the Trump administration to increase five-fold the number of partnering agencies that were recruited to the 287(g) Program during Donald Trump’s presidency.
“Through a close review of the Trump administration’s record, we found that when it expanded the program exponentially, it used anti-immigrant hate as its selling point. Nearly all of these sheriffs remain partners to the Biden administration,” according to the report released Wednesday.
“The Trump administration used blatantly xenophobic and racist messaging in its pitch to sheriffs to join the 287(g) program. For example, in February 2017, Trump told attendees of a joint conference of the Major County Sheriffs of America and the Major Cities Chiefs Association (held in Washington, D.C.,) to call DHS Secretary John Kelly to turn in undocumented ‘bad ones,'” the report said.
This is the first nationwide study of the program, according to the ACLU, which is calling on the Biden administration to shut down the program.
“When people are put in jail or a prison, they’re run through this 287(g) Program for immigration violations and what’s really insidious is that the Biden administration, by partnering with these prisons and jails, is turning a blind eye to the horrific abuses that are happening in these prisons and jails,” the report’s author, Naureen Shah, senior legislative counsel at the ACLU, told Border Report on Wednesday.
Shah said unsanitary conditions in jail facilities where migrants are being held, including the spread of COVID-19 that even led to some deaths and suicides by detainees are among what she calls “inhumane” conditions cited in the report.
ICE officials told Border Report they diligently screen partnering law enforcement agencies and maintain strict oversight to ensure there is no racial profiling.
“U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) recognizes the importance of its relationships with state and local law enforcement partners by sharing information and coordinating operations with those partners in a way that best serves local needs and ICE’s national security and public safety missions. ICE exercise strict oversight of 287(g) agreements where such agreements operate. Racial profiling will not be tolerated, and any indication of racial profiling will be treated with the utmost scrutiny and fully investigated. If any proof of racial profiling is uncovered, that specific officer or department will have their authority and/or agreement rescinded,” an ICE spokesperson told Border Report.
According to the Department of Homeland Security’s website on the program, ICE and partnering organizations sign a memorandum of agreement “that defines the scope, duration and limitations of the delegation of authority. It also sets forth the training requirements, the terms of ICE supervision, and requires the partnering LEA (law enforcement agency) to follow DHS and ICE policies when its designated immigration officers (DIOs) perform delegated immigration enforcement functions.”
The agency touts that in Fiscal Year 2021 the following number of noncitizens were convicted on these crimes and had been picked up through the 287(g) Program:
- 394 noncitizens were convicted for assault
- 646 convicted for drugs
- 74 convicted for sex offenses and assaults
- 53 convicted for obstructing poice
- 91 convicted for weapon offenses
- 21 convicted for homicide.
Shah studied the 142 state and local law enforcement agencies that are partnering with ICE, which include police and sheriff’s departments and prison systems nationwide.
Most are not even located on the border with Mexico, but are in states like Florida and Maryland, she said.
The ACLU report found 65% of all partnering law enforcement agencies have a history of racial profiling that could include pulling over motorists on minor traffic infractions and then arresting them on immigration violations.
The ACLU study was compiled by “desk research and legal analysis,” including the administrative history of partnering organizations. The nonprofit also drew resources and information from its state affiliates, like the ACLU of Texas.
Examples of racist records in the report by partnering law enforcement organizations include the Trump administration renewing a 287(g) contract with the Alamance County, North Carolina Sheriff’s Department, which had been terminated in 2012 by DHS after a two-year Justice Department investigation “found a pattern of discriminatory policing against Latinx people.”
After the contract was renewed, in 2019 Sheriff Terry Johnson said during a budget meeting with the county’s board of commissioners that “criminal illegal immigrants (are) actually raping our citizens in many, many ways,” according to the ACLU report.
“There’s millions of people in this country who live in fear of encountering local police whether they’re driving to Walmart or driving to their kids school to pick them up. They have to live in fear if they encounter a police officer, for whatever reason, a broken taillight or no, they could be put in a deportation pipeline and taken away from their families,” Shah said.