How would you liked to be asked for your immigration status when you are pulled over for a traffic violation? Well the truth is that it is happening in many cities around the U.S. and locally as well. Even though police departments refute these allegations, there have been many stories of people being profiled for looking like an “immigrant”. The reason behind many of these violations are two the two federal mandates 287g and Secure Communities. There are differences in these two but they both have one thing in common; they send the wrong message to the community.
The 287g program has brought itself national attention because it is being fully enforced by Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Maricopa County, AZ. So what is 287g? 287g is a federally mandated program was proposed and signed into law by President Clinton under the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996. This program was not utilized until around 2004 and since then it has created a lot of issues and malpractices in the jurisdictions in which it has been implemented. So, the 287 g program can be broken into two pieces. First is the implementation of the program is through the jail system. Those who are brought into jails and are suspected of being an undocumented immigrant will be asked a series of questions about their citizenship status. This is very subjective because it is left to an officer’s discretion to select who is and who is not questioned in regards to their immigration status. This leaves the door open for racial profiling.
The second and more dangerous part of the 287g program is the street task force. This puts local officers on the streets and “trains” them to act as immigration officials. It take about three to four years to graduate as an immigration attorney. How is it that officers are expected to completely understand immigration law within six weeks? But it is happening and checkpoints are being set up in places like Maricopa, Co. Arizona that are pulling over people that look alien. This program has detained many hard working people, without any criminal background, by immigration officials for minor offenses such as traffic violations or class “C” misdemeanors. The program can be implemented with either one or both of these components.
The second program, Secure Communities, comes as a result of the Real ID Act of 2005 in which aims to identify and remove criminal immigrants after the 9/11 attacks. Secure Communities is a sort of a little brother to the 287g program but it is not as invasive. Secure Communities runs every single person who come into jail through various databases, including INTERPOL, FBI and the Department of Homeland Security. This program removes the human aspect from the equation because officers only run people through the databases and do not ask questions. In comparison to the 287g, only people who have outstanding warrants with the police or an order of deportation with immigration will be identified and detained by immigration. This could potentially save people who have not committed major offenses from landing in the custody of immigration. However, there have been reports that people who look “immigrant” are put through the databases.
The real problem with programs like these is that it creates a wrong perception of the police in communities. Anti-immigrant people say that this program will make communities safer while studies done, such as the one done by the Police Foundation, show that programs like this actually deteriorate police/community relations. If people are afraid of being questioned about their immigration status they will not want to come forward to the police as victims or witnesses of crimes. This will make communities less safe. It opens up opportunities to criminals to go hide out in immigrant communities. Manmajor police chiefs have pronounced themselves against these programs because they understand the public implications these programs have on their communities. Former Houston Police Chief Harold Hurt was a strong advocate against these mandates because he understood the implications they would have on the community. Community organizations have gone out and explained to the immigrant community that they should still trust the police but it is harder and harder when they are faced with the threats of such negative police actions. It is time that the federal government manage immigration issues but not to persecute sectors of the population. The diversity that immigrants bring into communities should be celebrated. Immigration should not be feared, but understood; it should be looked at from a humanitarian standpoint – not a political point of view.
If you need more information on the Dream Act, 287(g), financial aid for undocumented students, or general immigration questions you can contact Cesar at firstname.lastname@example.org
*Cesar Espinosa is a columnist whose views do not necessarily reflect that of UHELGATO.com