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Update: Advocates Call on Administration to End 287(g)

April 08, 2010 - Posted by Maurice Belanger

Yesterday, the Reform Immigration FOR America campaign staged a press conference calling for the Obama Administration to end the 287(g) program. The press conference was organized in the wake of the release last week of a report by the DHS inspector general, who found fundamental flaws in the program, including a lack of attention to the protection of civil rights.

While the advocates who spoke on the call were calling for the termination of 287(g), they also talked about other aspects of the Administration's enforcement strategy.  Comparing the previous administration with the current one, Pablo Alvarado, of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, said of the 287(g) program,

"In Maricopa County, the only thing that has changed since George W. Bush left office is that it is now the Obama Administration that is enabling Sheriff Joe Arpaio to terrorize Latinos in the fourth largest city in America."

Crystal Williams, from the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said that the program is flawed in so many ways it should be set aside.

"When things happen like accident victims being taken in for questioning about their immigration status instead of being taken to the hospital, something is wrong. When checkpoints are keeping people from going to church or going to the grocery store or going to school, something is wrong.  When scarce law enforcement resources are being used on pretexts to arrest Latino-looking people to explore their immigration status, something is wrong."

Eliseo Medina, of Service Employees International Union, said that, while he at first believed that the Obama Administration would focus enforcement primarily on abusive employers, it is still workers who are feeling the brunt of enforcement.  As a result,

"Thousands of workers, once in the legitimate, taxed economy, are now being pushed into the underground economy, which further drives down wages for U.S. workers.  The underground economy of sweatshops and cash payments benefits only the most abusive, off-the-books employers, who will never be reached by audits, because they don't pay taxes or provide reports to the IRS."

Looking back over the years, Medina noted that the longer we go without fixing our broken immigration system, the worse things get.

"The system has been broken for a long time, it is getting worse as time goes by, and unless we take action to fix it, we are going to end up spending a lot more money on enforcement that is ineffective, we are going to end up with a lot more churning of the workforce, we are going to wind up with the growth of the underground economy, with attendant loss not only of benefits for workers but also to the tax base and the erosion of wage standards for all workers."

"We cannot fix this economy unless we figure out a way in which all workers can have the same rights and responsibilities, and we can only do that with a comprehensive immigration reform bill."

You can listen to a recording of this press conference on our press conference archive page.

As we mentioned in our post on April 6, the Inspector General's report on 287(g) is just one in a series of reports on the program that have been released recently: one from the ACLU of Georgia, one from the Migration Policy Institute, and one from the University of North Carolina.  You can find links to these reports, and to other reports on 287(g) and related programs, on our State and Local Enforcement page in our Research Center.

The frustration with the Administration's enforcement policies, and with Congressional lack of action on immigration reform, is increasing.  As Mr. Medina noted on the call yesterday, until we have immigration reform, "the problem is not going to go away and neither are we."

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