The G-Men are Coming: Local Cops Partner with Federal Authorities to Deport Undocumented Immigrants
by Christopher Zoukis
Donald Trump spoke ill of the undocumented immigrant population during his run for president and promised to ramp up deportation efforts if elected. As president, he is making good on his campaign promise.
According to Reuters, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) has greatly increased its use of so-called 287(g) agreements with state and local authorities. These agreements, authorized by the Immigration and Nationality Act, essentially deputize local law enforcement officers to perform some federal immigration duties, such as checking immigration status and issuing federal immigration detainers.
A Mother Jones report indicates that while this activity has been limited since 2012 to a “jail enforcement” model, which allows deputized officers to “interrogate arrested individuals about their immigration status and issue immigration detainers on inmates,” the new DHS directive expanding the program also contemplates greater use of the “task force officer” model. This controversial method, used heavily by former Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona, allows police to question and arrest anyone they suspect to be undocumented.
The Reuters investigation uncovered documents revealing that DHS has reached out to “scores” of state and local agencies about entering into 287(g) agreements.
“It fits right into what Trump wants to do,” said Bill Ong Hing, an immigration law professor at the University of San Francisco. “He promised to establish an army charged with rounding up and deporting undocumented immigrants. [287(g) agreements] are a convenient way for him to expand that deportation force.”
The efforts, spearheaded by former DHS Secretary John Kelly, who referred to the program as “a highly successful force multiplier” and “critical to an effective enforcement strategy,” have been successful. According to the Reuters report, the number of 287(g) agreements has doubled in the 10-month period between February and December 2017. Thirty-eight other jurisdictions have expressed interest in the program, eight of which are looking into the task force officer model.
According to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, 287(g) agreements “led to the identification of more than 402,000 removable aliens” from January 2006 to September 2015. Those numbers are sure to spike as federal immigration authority and methods infiltrate local law enforcement.
But not everyone in law enforcement thinks that these agreements are a good idea. Mother Jones reports that the Major Cities Chiefs Association (“MCCA”), a group of police chiefs and sheriffs from the largest cities in the United States and Canada, has expressed concern over cooperation between local police and federal immigration agents. In 2013, the MCCA noted that this type of relationship “undermines the trust and cooperation with immigrant communities which are essential elements of community oriented policing.”
Additionally, civil rights advocates worry about the impact of 287(g) agreements on local communities. The American Civil Liberties Union has called it “one of the worst federal immigration enforcement programs.”
And Shiu-Ming Cheer, senior staff attorney at the National Immigration Law Center, worries about the potential “chilling effect” of 287(g) agreements.
“Immigrants will start seeing law enforcement as deportation agents,” said Cheer. “It’s going to create a wider sense of fear.” As a result, members within immigrant communities will fear calling and cooperating with police when they are witnesses to or even victims of crimes.