Try digitalPLUS for 10 days for only $0.99

Op-Eds

News Opinion Op-Eds

Frederick County officials shouldn't be enforcing immigration law

A Hispanic woman was eating her lunch near a pond outside her workplace when deputies from the Frederick County Sheriff's Office arbitrarily accosted her. They questioned her about her immigration status, arrested her and placed her in detention, where she remained for 46 days, separated from her 1-year-old child. This 2008 incident has been echoed countless times across the country, as local police officers — deputized as immigration enforcers — engage in racial profiling to fulfill their mandate to detain undocumented immigrants for deportation.

Is this the sort of thing we want happening in Maryland — or anywhere in the United States, for that matter? The answer should be no, and that's why it's time to end the 287(g) program once and for all.

The federal 287(g) program delegates immigration enforcement authority to participating local law enforcement agencies, allowing them to apprehend individuals they suspect of immigration violations. Over the past few months, the Department of Homeland Security has been reviewing its agreements with 57 law enforcement agencies in 21 states, including here in Maryland, in Frederick County. The agreements were set to expire on or around Sept. 30, but the DHS extended them for an additional 90 days pending completion of its review.

As the DHS considers whether to renew its agreement with Frederick County, the ACLU of Maryland and a coalition of civil rights and faith organizations have joined together to urge Maryland's congressional delegation to help get the program out of our state. Similar efforts are under way in other states with 287(g) agreements, including Florida, South Carolina and Arizona.

Since people do not wear their immigration status on their sleeves, the 287(g) program inevitably incentivizes racial profiling. It has widely been criticized, even by DHS' own Office of the Inspector General, for failing to provide necessary training and oversight and for continuing to operate in jurisdictions under investigation for racial profiling. Police chiefs across the country, including Montgomery County's Chief Thomas Manger, have also criticized the 287(g) program for undermining community trust in the police and therefore harming law enforcement objectives.

Frederick County is a perfect illustration of these systemic problems. Sheriff Charles Jenkins claims that his office's participation is about catching the most violent offenders, but his numbers tell a very different story. A Migration Policy Institute report found that more than 80 percent of all arrests made under the 287(g) program in Frederick County were for low-level offenses, including over 60 percent for traffic violations.

Community advocates tell of regular baseless stops of Latinos, regardless of immigration status, since the county entered into its agreement with Immigration and Customs Enforcement in 2008. They also report that immigrants are afraid to go to the police when they are victims of crime. Far from promoting public safety, Sheriff Jenkins' program has overwhelmingly resulted in incarcerating and deporting law-abiding individuals apprehended for the most minor transgressions.

The 287(g) program has predictably led to violations of constitutional rights and is seriously out of step with increasingly positive attitudes toward immigrants, both in Maryland and across the country. Following President Barack Obama's announcement last June ending the deportation of certain undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, a Gallup poll found that 66 percent of Americans thought immigration was a "good thing" for the U.S. — up from 59 percent the year before. Even conservative leaders have begun to come around and suggest that they would support some form of immigration reform.

Here in Maryland, 58 percent of voters supported upholding the Maryland Dream Act, the law that expands access to higher education for immigrant students. Marylanders have repeatedly and consistently opposed anti-immigrant measures in our legislature, and programs that alienate, racially profile and harass people of color do not belong anywhere in our state.

Given this progress, congressional leaders in Maryland and across the country have a special opportunity to tell the DHS that the 287(g) program is out of step with our values and should not be renewed. They should join in this effort and help make Maryland — and the nation — 287(g)-free.

Sirine Shebaya is a Liman Fellow for Immigrants' Rights and Racial Justice with the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland. Her email is shebaya@aclu-md.org.

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
Related Content
  • Frederick deputies enforced a federal warrant, not immigration law

    The premise of the lead anecdote in Sirine Shebaya's op-ed ("Local police, federal law," Dec. 11) is incorrect. The deputies who questioned the referenced Hispanic woman were not acting, and did not purport to act, pursuant to the Section 287(g) immigration enforcement provisions. The two deputies...

  • Immigration takes center stage

    Immigration takes center stage

    In calling for an immigration policy that includes a path to citizenship and expanded legal protections against deportation for millions of undocumented immigrants living in the U.S., Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Rodham Clinton has presented her potential Republican rivals in 2016 with...

  • Immigration reform can wait

    Immigration reform can wait

    The Sun's recent editorial, "No lame duck president" (Nov. 16), made the editorial board look a little ridiculous.

  • Don't finance amnesty

    Don't finance amnesty

    Funding for the federal government under the current continuing resolution runs out on Tuesday, Dec. 11 at midnight, and the Republican majority in the House of Representatives seems poised to prevent another government shut down.

  • No amnesty for undocumented immigrants

    No amnesty for undocumented immigrants

    President Obama wants to write his own laws on immigration and amnesty ("Immigrants, advocates must wait for deportation relief," Feb. 17).

  • Obama casts himself as a dictator with immigration action

    Obama casts himself as a dictator with immigration action

    On Thursday President Barack Obama granted amnesty to 5 million illegal aliens even though he declared it is not amnesty ("Obama makes his case for immigration action," Nov. 21). He has lost credibility with all the lies he has said in the past six years as president. What he did was unconstitutional....

  • Obama's disastrous immigration policy

    Obama's disastrous immigration policy

    The misguided immigration policies of President Barack Obama will have disastrous consequences for the nation's future ("Immigration reprieve would apply to 55,000 in Maryland," Feb. 8).

  • Immigration reform, yes, executive action, no

    Immigration reform, yes, executive action, no

    Is the looming battle over immigration really about Congress' power to legislate immigration policy or about the president's power to set policy by executive order? I think it's the latter. But what really is at stake is the ability of Congress to deal effectively with the millions of illegal immigrants...

Comments
Loading

75°