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Department of Homeland Security Expands Controversial 287(g) Program Empowering Local Police to Enforce Immigration Laws


Chris Newman, Legal director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network

Mark Krikorian, Executive Director of the Center for Immigration Studies

AMY GOODMAN: The immigration debate is heating up on Capitol Hill, and the Department of Homeland Security said Friday it plans to enter into new agreements with sixty-seven state and local law enforcement agencies. These agreements expand the existing 287(g) program, which delegates some federal immigration enforcement authority to certain state and local agencies. The announcement comes shortly after DHS released a report on immigrant detention noting the vast majority of those detained under the 287(g) agreements were never charged with a criminal offense.

The 287(g) program has come under intense criticism in recent months from over 500 organizations, including the ACLU, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, calling on the government to end the program. Many of the agencies involved have been accused of racial profiling, and the Maricopa County Sheriff, Joe Arpaio in Phoenix, Arizona, is being investigated by the Justice Department.

On Friday the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, known as ICE, said it would go forward with a new jails agreement with Sheriff Arpaio but remove his field authority to enforce federal immigration laws on the street. Well, that didn't stop the Sheriff, and he conducted his twelfth so-called immigration sweep Friday, arresting some sixty people. The Sheriff defended his stance on Fox's Glenn Beck Show earlier last week.

   SHERIFF JOE ARPAIO: You know what? They can take away anything they want. I'm still the elected sheriff. I'm still going to enforce the state laws. And I'm going to enforce a federal law, as there is a law, which they probably don't know about, that locals-you know, local law enforcement can enforce. So, nothing changes. I was willing to sign it. I did sign it. They thought I would never sign it. And when I signed it, they sent their top guys down and took away the part of law enforcement on the streets. I did it to be a good partner. They trained a hundred of my deputies. And I really don't need the federal government. In fact, it's going to be great not to be under their umbrella, because then I don't have to worry about their bureaucratic policies and supervision. So I'm going to do the same thing. Nothing has changed.

 AMY GOODMAN: In addition to the agreement with Sheriff Arpaio, ICE has signed fifty-four other new 287(g) agreements. Twelve agreements await approval by the localities involved. Another six are in negotiations. Six local jurisdictions opted out of the program altogether.

Well, we now host a debate on these agreements. I'm joined in DC by Mark Krikorian, the executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies. They've just come out with a report this week arguing for the program's effectiveness. It's called "The 287(g) Program: Protecting Home Towns and Homeland." And we're joined from Los Angeles by Chris Newman, the legal director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, one of the groups that's been at the forefront of the countrywide efforts to oppose the 287(g) program.

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Let's begin with Mark Krikorian. Why do you think 287(g) should remain?

MARK KRIKORIAN: Well, it's an extraordinarily important program in helping enforce the immigration laws. It leverages the relatively small number of federal officers by enabling the 700,000 local law enforcement officers all across the country who, in the normal course of their business, encounter significant numbers of illegal immigrants.

And the way the program has worked has been very successful. Something like one out of five of all the criminal aliens-in other words, illegal aliens who've committed additional violent or drug crimes-one out of five that the immigration service has deported have come to light through this 287(g) program. It's also cost-effective, and it enables local cops to do their local jobs, their local law enforcement, more effectively because it gives them this additional tool to essentially partner with the feds so that the locals and the feds are both able to do their jobs more effectively. 

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