National Immigration Forum

Practical Solutions for Immigrants and America

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Congressional Hearing Sheds Light unto Misguided Enforcement Priorities

March 04, 2009

 


Washington, DCToday, the House Committee on Homeland Security is holding a hearing to examine the 287g agreements, the federal/local agreements that allows local police to enforce federal civil immigration law.  Recent reports, including a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released today, have called attention to the program’s lack of federal oversight and how the program is being implemented at the local level,. The following is a statement by Ali Noorani, Executive Director of the National Immigration Forum, a non-partisan pro-immigrant advocacy organization in Washington.


 


The facts are piling up that 287g agreements are expensive to implement, both in terms of dollars and in community trust.  As newly released independent and government reports expose, implementation of the 287g agreement by 67 local and state law enforcement agencies has been devoid of appropriate federal oversight, resulting in excessive use of force, civil rights abuses, and costly lawsuits.


 


Efforts to combine civil immigration and criminal law enforcement distract local police from their duty to protect communities.  Rather than following the original intent of the agreement and focusing on dangerous criminals, most jurisdictions with 287(g) agreements waste valuable resources chasing immigrant workers and family members, minor traffic offenders, and others who don’t pose a threat to our country. 


 


Look no further than Maricopa County Arizona’s Sheriff Joe Arpaio as the prime example of enforcement priorities out of whack; with a stack of 40,000 felony warrants, more than 2,700 civil rights complaints and residents afraid of calling the police to report a crime, he has shamelessly compromised community safety in his search for headlines.  In this case, nobody wins—county law enforcement can’t do its job, and there is a lack of trust and communication between immigrants and the police.


 


A thorough review of the program is urgently needed, and decisions must be made regarding how to limit or end this program.   Without a true commitment from Congress and the new Administration to reform our immigration system, patchwork enforcement schemes will continue and continue to miss the mark.  President Obama needs to lead the country forward to a better, safer, more humane immigration system, rather than continuing to rely upon the failed policies of the past Administration to shore up our broken system.


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