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Government Task Force Pans 287(g)

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October 5, 2009

The newest criticism of the already widely condemned 287(g) program, under which state and local law enforcement agencies gain federal immigration enforcement authority, comes from a U.S. government task force advising the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on border issues. The Southwest Border Task Force, comprised of “law enforcement, elected officials and national security experts from around the country” selected by DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano, has recommended that the government scale down the 287(g) program.

We hope this paves the way for the federal government to acknowledge finally that the 287(g) program is deeply flawed as advocates, experts and many police have repeatedly stated. Criticism of the program has continued to grow since July when the Obama administration announced that it would expand the Bush-era program without instituting significant reforms. Over 500 organizations sent a letter to the president demanding an end to the program on the grounds that it has been misused by local law enforcement officials, like Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Arizona, to promote racial profiling.

Last week, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus sent a letter to the Obama administration saying “the misuse of the 287(g) program by its current participants has rendered it ineffective and dangerous to community safety” and calling for its immediate termination. The letter also stated that the program is alarmingly mismanaged with insufficient oversight, increases exposure to liability and litigation, and undermines the law enforcement’s relationship with the communities they protect.

Some police departments are abandoning the program. Two Massachusetts law enforcement agencies – the Framingham police and the Barnstable County sheriff’s department have opted out. In explaining Framingham’s decision to withdraw, Framingham Police Chief Steven Carl noted that the 287(g) program hurts the police’s relationship in the community. County officials of Middlesex County, New Jersey decided not to enter into the program this past week, saying that “By taking on additional responsibility for no additional compensation as well as the increased liability as called for under the federal government’s 287(g) program, the county would not be acting in the best interests of Middlesex County’s residents.”

DHS should take this opportunity to carefully consider the problems with 287(g) identified by informed critics around the country and by its own handpicked advisors. An honest and thorough review will reveal that the costs of 287(g) – in resources, increased racial profiling, and decreased public safety – far outweigh any benefits.

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