What Is 287(g) And What Does It Means For Our Community?

If you have attended our events or received one of our flyers, you may have seen the term 287(g). We have had some discussion about it in our Dignity Dialogues but haven’t had much opportunity to elaborate on it. This post will be explaining what 287(g) is and what it means for our community!

287(g) is a program that allows Immigration and Customs Enforcement (I.C.E.) to work with local law enforcement in order to expand their reach in our communities. The agreement allows local law enforcement to act as Immigration Enforcement and to become deputized.

What are the officers are allowed to do?

  • They are allowed to question people about their immigration status.
  • Check databases for information on peoples’ immigration status.
  • Detain individuals until I.C.E. officials arrive.
  • Enter information into I.C.E.’s database.
  • Issue the document that starts removal processes (Notice to Appear).
  • Transfer those who are undocumented or are not naturalized citizens into I.C.E. custody.
  • And more…

Is there only one type of 287(g)?

In the past there were three types of 287(g) programs that local law enforcement could enter into:

  • Task force model-during normal daily activities, an officer may question those they suspect of being a noncitizen and arrest them if they believe they broke federal immigration laws.
  • Jail enforcement model-allows officers to interrogate suspected noncitizens and place a detainer on them until I.C.E. can become involved.
  • Hybrid model-has elements of both.

Recently, this has changed. Now the jail enforcement model is the one that is used throughout the nation.

What kind of training do the officers recieve? What requirements do they have to meet?

  • First off, the officer must be a U.S. citizen.
  • They must have been working in law enforcement for at least a year.
  • They must attend a four week training at I.C.E. headquarters. (Most of this is paperwork protocal but there is supposedly some civil rights training as well.)
  • As of March this year, there were nearly 2,000 state and local officers who were trained nationwide.
  • The training is paid for by I.C.E. but all other expenses like travel, food, etc. is paid for by local and state governments.

What are some problems with it?

Well where do we start…

  • It is advertises as a program to get rid of violent criminals. Criminality is not only a very vague and fluxuating term (and violent criminals are such a small percentage of the undocumented population) but this program does very little in this area.
  • Racial profiling… need we say more? Do police officers stop white people to ask about their immigration status? No… even though there are undocumented immigrants from all around the world and not just from South America.
  • It is expensive for local governments. Sheriff Arpaio’s office reportedly had a $1.3 million deficit in 3 months. (See more on Arpaio below!)
  • The training is not enough. The officers are not given continuous guidance and are just given more authority with very little accountability.
  • It absolutely threatens the safety of our community! Because officers having more power and less accountability doesn’t make anyone safe.

But wait, who is Arpaio?

Sheriff Joe Arpaio… some people (mainly himself) call him the toughest sheriff in the U.S. but most just call him the worst. He was the sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona from 1993-2016 and is the poster child racist for 287(g). He has been accused of abuse of power, misuse of funds, unlawful enforcement of immigration laws and more. Most importantly, he oversaw the worst pattern of racial profiling in our country’s history… He also made sure that prison inmates were brutally and inhumanely treated. This is just a small list of his inexcusable actions: googling him will let you read even more atrocities.

So wait, Arpaio was able to do all this because of 287(g)?

Well… In the U.S. we have an appalling lack of accountability for our officers in general and 287(g) agreements increases their power without increasing accountability. Arpaio continued for so long because the police were policing themselves and that is not really possible (see our next blog post on Civilian Oversight Boards: coming soon!). While 287(g) did not cause him to do these horrific things, it allowed him to expand his power and reach.

So we don’t want Bellingham to sign an agreement with I.C.E. and participate in 287(g)?

Not at all!! We want Bellingham to be a sanctuary city and one of the most crucial steps for this to happen is to make sure that we have it in writing that there will be no collaboration with I.C.E. inside or outside of 287(g) (except as federal warrants demand). In fact, if you haven’t already (or even if you have), call your City Council members and demand that they put that in the ordinance!

I don’t really think I need to remind people that time is of the essence here as locally and federally policies are being created that target immigrant populations. The question is: what will you do to help?


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