Sunday, October 25, 2009

287 g: A path to Barbarism

For those of you not familiar with Immigration Law, Section 287 (g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act has caused quite a stir over the last 15 years.

287g Sec 1 states:

The Attorney General may enter into a written agreement with a State, or any political subdivision of a State, pursuant to which an officer or employee of the State or subdivision, who is determined by the Attorney General to be qualified to perform a function of an immigration officer in relation to the investigation, apprehension or detention of aliens in the United State, may carry out such function at the expense of the State or political subdivision.

Essentially the law allows localities jurisdiction in matters of federal immigration law. On the surface the law makes sense. The federal government is limited in resources and personnel dedicated to immigration and several states have had growing complaints over the years as a result. This law seemingly allows local law enforcement to fill in the gaps.

Now, 2 years ago while I was living in Illinois I may not have thought much of 287 (g). It seems to make sense and under the direction of a responsible executor, may be a useful apparatus for controlling immigration issues.

The problem 287 (g) faces is that too much authority is given to each “political subdivision” and in essence there are now hundreds of different immigration policies throughout the United States, rather than one all encompassing rule of law.

Many of you may be familiar with our infamous Sheriff Joe Arpaio from Maricopa County---self-proclaimed America’s Toughest Sheriff. He recently has made his rounds on all the national media outlets thumbing his nose at DHS and is currently under investigation by the Justice Department. He has had over 2,700 lawsuits filed against him. Until one gets a close up view of the utter disregard for rule of law and complete abuse of power his office engages in, the dangers of 287 (g) are not so apparent.

Rumors swirl of his political alliance with members of the Nazi party, his immigration sweeps of all “brown” people, and his mistreatment of prisoners. You would think that the more you dig around for truth, the more inaccurate some of the legends would be—but that has not been my experience. I have only found the truth to be more abhorrent than the myth.

He has taken the liberty of storming (literally) City Halls in pursuit of illegals, spends his time raiding car washes and indiscriminately placing traffic check points around the county arresting and/or detaining anyone of suspicion. Meanwhile, he completely disregards crime and criminals violent in nature. Not to mention his actions have resulted in suppressing community participation of reporting crimes. I recently heard one family had their home violently broken into 7 times in broad daylight before deciding to call local law enforcement. This was just due to the fear that has been associated with all police officers in the area, even though that fear is unwarranted in many cases. Not all police down here are Arpaio.

How does he decide who is suspicious? Consider this interview he recently conducted on October 8th with CNN’s Rick Sanchez:

Sanchez: You just said you detain people who haven’t committed a crime—how do you prove they’re not illegal?

Arpaio: It has to do with their conduct, what type of clothes they’re wearing, their speech, they admit it, they may have phony ID’s. A lot of variables are involved.

Sanchez: You judge people and arrest them based on their speech and the clothes they’re wearing sir?

Arpaio: No, when they’re in the vehicle with someone who has committed a crime. We have the right to talk to those people. When they admit that they are here illegally we take action…the federal law specifies the speech, the clothes, the environment, the erratic behavior. It’s right in the law.

Oh yea? Where?

Sheriff Arpaio has also been quoted by a GQ reporter as saying, “All these people that come over, they could come with disease. There’s no control, no health checks or anything. They check fruits and vegetables, how come they don’t check people? No one talks about that! They’re all dirty.”

These are the quotes he makes publicly when he is on his best behavior.

It may be easy to take the approach that he is doing his job, these are illegals after all. But what has to be understood is that he is tearing mothers away from their crying children(American citizen children)—literally. Then you see people just trying to make a living, survive, and see them treated worse than animals or the deadliest of criminals. Watching this makes your heart sink.

There are pretty reliable rumors that Arpaio also abuses his power in regards to people he considers political enemies. Several individuals, including law enforcement officers in the area, have claimed that their homes have been bugged. Can you imagine it, a cop bugging the home or office of another cop? What world is this I have stumbled unto?

Recently, Arizona’s former governor Janet Napolitano , now acting Secretary of Homeland Security, unveiled an attempt to repair the immigrant detention system. It seems a letter written by Reps. Nydia Velazquez, D-NY and Luis Gutierrez, D-IL prompted the change.

“We do not believe that allowing state and local police to racially profile and target our immigrant communities inspires confidence in our ability to enact (comprehensive immigration reform),” the letter continued, “It is our experience that state and local law enforcement officials actually use their expanded and often unchecked powers under the program to target immigrants and persons of color. It is our opinion that no amount of reforms, no matter how well-intentioned, will change this disturbing reality.”

In Maricopa County, the new agreement would limit Sheriff Joe and his deputies to checking only the immigration status of jail inmates. The unintended consequences of which, could actually see an increase in arrests and detention in order to check immigration status among inmates.

If this is going on here, what is going on elsewhere? Who knows? And the problem with that is we now have hundreds, if not thousands, of local communities engaging in what they consider to be immigration law. Until the federal government takes control of the situation and reigns in the power it now gave away to any renegade Sheriff who wanted it, these abuses will continue.


Michael W. Huseman said...

On a related note, although from Dallas, the following post from the Wall Street Journal Law Blog talks about police there ticketing drivers for not speaking English.

James Fleckles said...