(Los Angeles) The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California today called on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors to vote “no” on renewing the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s (LASD) fundamentally-flawed 287(g) agreement with the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency – originally adopted in 2005.
The LASD 287(g) agreement with ICE gives the Sheriff’s deputies in L.A. County jails the powers of federal immigration agents, enabling them to question the immigration status of inmates and select inmates for referral to ICE. The 287(g) agreement has led to racial profiling of inmates, resulting in the illegal detention and deportation of U.S. citizens and residents, and the diversion of resources away from the actual work of the Sheriff’s department to the work of federal immigration enforcement. Rather than expend its resources on identifying serious criminal offenders in the jails for removal, many of those identified in L.A. jails for referral to ICE are individuals who committed traffic infractions or misdemeanors. In its five years in L.A., the program has eroded public trust in law enforcement and community safety, and must be immediately terminated.
“It is time for 287 (g) to be part of our past,” said Hector Villagra, legal director of ACLU/SC, who addressed the Board of Supervisors urging them to vote against the agreement. “We should not move forward with a flawed program that leads to racial profiling and harms our community.”
Today’s vote from the county supervisors is whether to renew the 2005 policy. In 2009, ICE required every jurisdiction in the country with 287(g) agreements to adopt a new standardized agreement, which created expanded roles and responsibilities for local law enforcement agents to enforce immigration law. LASD refused to sign the new agreement and ultimately ICE agreed to allow the previous 287(g) agreement to be renewed.
An October 2009 study for the Board of Supervisors by the Police Assessment Resource Center found that 28 percent of those referred to ICE through the program had only been charged with minor misdemeanors or infractions, such as joy riding, fare evasion, driving without a license, and minor municipal code violations.
“The L.A. 287(g) program turns our Sheriff’s deputies into surrogate agents of the federal government. Immigration law is not the business of our local police and Sheriffs – public safety and security is,” said Jennie Pasquarella, ACLU/SC Staff Attorney. “The 287(g) program in L.A. has only served to further chip away at public trust in law enforcement, while funneling hard-working law-abiding immigrants, and sometimes U.S. citizens, into an immigration pipeline.”
The ACLU/SC has stood firm in its opposition to the 287(g) program, because 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. A recent report from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) confirms what the ACLU/SC has long known.
The report documented startling lapses in the 287(g) program nationwide in following its priorities, and providing necessary oversight and training. The report found that although the mandate of ICE’s 287(g) program is to identify noncitizens who pose a threat to national security or are dangers to the community, less than 10 percent of noncitizens identified through 287(g) were serious criminal offenders and almost half had no involvement in crimes of violence, drug offenses, or property crimes.
It also found that the program lacked sufficient training for officers and a lack of safeguards against racial profiling and other civil rights violations. For example, the report revealed that officers are only given four weeks of training as compared to the 13 weeks that ICE agents receive. In many instances, the officers had no bilingual skills and could not communicate with people they were interviewing.
Under L.A.’s 287(g) program, in 2007, LASD referred Pedro Guzman to ICE, resulting in his illegal deportation to Mexico. Guzman, a U.S.-born citizen, spent three months struggling to survive before his family was able to find him. While the ACLU/SC fought vigorously to get the government to help in the search for Mr. Guzman, something they refused to do, Mr. Guzman ate out of trash bins, lived on the streets and was left to fend for himself in Mexico, a country he had never even visited.