DHS Report Confirms Serious Civil Rights Problems With Local Immigration Enforcement Program

April 2, 2010 12:00 am

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ACLU Calls For Immediate Termination Of ICE 287(g) Program

April 2, 2010

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WASHINGTON – A report from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) reveals several critical problems surrounding Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) 287(g) program, which allows certain state and local law enforcement agencies to engage in federal immigration enforcement activities.

The American Civil Liberties Union has strongly opposed the 287(g) program, believing it has led to illegal racial profiling and civil rights abuses while diverting scarce resources from traditional local law enforcement functions and distorting immigration enforcement priorities. The OIG report affirms these concerns, and the ACLU calls for the immediate termination of the 287(g) program.

“The DHS OIG report confirms in detail what the ACLU has known for many years – that the 287(g) program, fundamentally flawed and incompetently administered, presents serious civil rights and civil liberties problems for U.S. citizens and immigrants,” said Joanne Lin, ACLU Legislative Counsel. “ICE has completely shirked its legal duty to train and supervise 287(g) officers and has instead unleashed a slew of unmonitored state and local law officers across America – many of whom are using federal immigration authority as a cloak to engage in racial profiling. The program should be terminated and de-funded.”

The report finds lack of oversight, training and other failures in the 287(g) program and makes it clear that the program does not have adequate safeguards against racial profiling and other civil rights abuses. Many state and local agencies accepted for the program have a documented history of serious allegations of constitutional violations.

Under the 287(g) program, ICE has failed to:

  • establish appropriate performance measures and targets to determine whether program results are aligned with program goals;
  • develop guidance for supervising ICE officers;
  • provide adequate 287(g) program oversight;
  • establish a thorough review and selection process for law enforcement agencies requesting to participate in the 287(g) program;
  • establish data collection and reporting requirements to address civil rights and civil liberties concerns;
  • provide adequate 287(g) training programs;
  • provide accurate and honest program information to Congress and the public; and
  • standardize 287(g) officers’ access to DHS information systems.

“The 287(g) program, as this latest report confirms, all but abandons the constitutional guarantees of fair treatment and due process, and encourages racial and ethnic profiling. Immigration enforcement must respect civil liberties, and it’s clear the current 287(g) program does not come close,” said Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “The 287(g) program also undermines public safety by exacerbating fear of the police in communities already distrustful of law enforcement.”

The report outlines how local agencies exploited the 287(g) program’s defects to engage in systemic civil rights abuses. Although an ICE fact sheet describes how the 287(g) program does not allow state and local agencies to perform “random street operations,” the OIG report describes how one agency improperly engaged in “random street operations” to target “minor offenses and violations of local ordinances,” while claiming to act under their 287(g) agreement. In addition, although 287(g) officers are only authorized to use federal immigration authority to take people into custody as a result of violating state or local criminal law, the OIG report found incidents of immigrants being arrested for federal immigration violations without prior arrests on state or local charges.

“The OIG report’s message is clear,” said Cecillia Wang, managing attorney of the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project. “ICE can no longer stand by idly while local agencies use their 287(g) agreements as cover to engage in the rampant abuse of people’s constitutional rights. People in 287(g) communities should have the right to go about their business without being stopped for no other reason than that they ‘look foreign’ to a police officer.”

The Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General’s report is available at: www.dhs.gov/xoig/assets/mgmtrpts/OIG_10-63_Mar10.pdf

The ACLU’s submitted testimony on the 287(g) program can be found at: www.aclu.org/immigrants/gen/39062leg20090304.html

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