Nearly 30 police departments in Trump-supporting towns across the country are helping the President’s agenda to deport illegal immigrants. And that number is growing.
As Reuters reports, scores of officers are being trained by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) in a special program that gives them access to federal records of those they arrest and suspect of being in the country illegally. The program, a.k.a. 287 (g) then gives officers the authority to turn those arrestees over to federal agents.
This means that people arrested for anything from minor crimes to serious felonies can be targeted. While officers always have access to contact ICE when they believe they have an illegal immigrant in custody, this program speeds up the process.
“Many of the immigrants that are arrested in traffic stops or for loitering are not the real threats to public safety,” the American Civil Liberties Union’s Chris Rickerd told Reuters.
Under President Barack Obama, the program was minimized due to the belief that Latinos were being unfairly targeted.
While most of the departments joining (or attempting to join) the program are in towns with less than 100,000 residents, interest in 287 (g) is rapidly increasing. Opinions about the program vary.
Fred Harran, director of public safety in Trump-supporting Bensalem, Pennsylvania, told Reuters, “If deporting you out of this country when you commit a crime is a tool at my disposal, you are darn right I am going to use it.”
Yet, in close-by Philadelphia, a city with a larger immigrant population, police commissioner Richard Ross Jr. worries about the negative impact this could have on its residents. “There’s no way in the world that you would want to come forward as a source of information if you believe you are in jeopardy of being deported,” Ross testified in court this fall.
So why are police departments so eager to sign on? Aside from the deportation factor, the program offers funding to departments in need. Once a department is approved, local jurisdictions pay for officers’ travel, housing and other expenses. ICE also installs technology in the local offices on their dime.
“It’s an opportunity to make money for a county that is facing economic hardship,” Chris Kleinberg, the sheriff of Dakota County, Nebraska, which applied to be part of the program, told Reuters.
Indeed, the program is making an impact, increasing the number of immigrants it can deport. As Reuters reports, a 2010 report from the DHS inspector general showed that in 2008 officers identified 33,831 immigrants for deportation, or 9.5 percent of all removals during that period.
However, a 2011 study by Migration Policy Institute of seven 287(g) jurisdictions found the program mostly targeted immigrants committing misdemeanors, including immigration violations, (so not removing the most dangerous criminals from society), and is making immigrants mistrust police even more.