New Immigration Enforcement Agreements Will Make a Bad Problem Worse

Signed Agreements between Local Law Enforcement and Department of Homeland Security Threaten Public Safety and Harm Immigrant Communities

October 16, 2009, WASHINGTON — Today the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) delegated its federal immigration enforcement authority to 55 local law enforcement jurisdictions, including localities that have a history of targeting Latinos and other immigrant groups.  Maricopa County gets to keep its “jail model” agreement, even though Sheriff Arpaio proudly and publicly declares that he determines “illegality” based on speech and clothes.  Even the ongoing investigation of his department by the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice hasn’t dampened DHS’s enthusiasm for him.

“DHS has touted the renewed agreements for containing minor provisions that they claim will cure the flagrant abuses that have permeated this Bush-era program since its implementation,” said Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center.  “Unfortunately, these revisions are just cosmetic.  DHS’s smoke and mirrors claims are no substitute for real change.”

The current agreements, dubbed 287(g) after a section of the Immigration and Nationality Act, won’t protect individuals from local law enforcement officers who use racial profiling to go after immigrants and people of color.  And they won’t prevent police from using arrests for minor crimes to take people of color to jails where their immigration status can be questioned.  Also missing is any real-life method for people to file complaints about their treatment under the program.

Added Hincapié, “By extending the agreements of local law enforcement agencies that have shown a flagrant disregard for the rule of law, like Arpaio’s, DHS makes holding sheriffs accountable for civil rights violations a low priority.  This raises grave concerns about the immigration enforcement programs advanced by the Obama Administration.  Although they are susceptible to abuse, 287(g) and the fingerprint scanning program Secure Communities are being expanded at an alarming rate to communities that will have to deal with the consequences of the federal government’s actions.

“Channeling people into the criminal justice system will put up a veneer of doing real enforcement, effectively muffling criticism, while doing nothing to repair our broken immigration system.  These are not the workable solutions on immigration this country so desperately needs.”

Over the last 30 years, the National Immigration Law Center has been dedicated to promoting and advancing the rights of low-income immigrants and their family members.  For more information about how you can become an advocate for immigrant rights, please visit

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