North Carolina has a long history of sponsoring disastrous bills. HB2 and SB 824 are some of the more obvious examples. However, there’s been a recent law enforcement bill that even the NC Sheriff’s Association has opposed. House Bill 370 is a proposed law that would force local law enforcement to cooperate with ICE or face fines for disobedience. The fines could potentially reach up to $25,500 a day. The bill has passed the House and will receive a hearing in the Senate. Rep. Dustin Hall said the bill was crafted to ensure compliance from the few Sheriffs who have announced they will not partake in the 287(g) program. Hall derogatorily referred to these law enforcement officials as, “sanctuary sheriffs.”
But what is the 287(g) program, and why does Hall want our local law enforcement to be a part of it? 287(g) originated from the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Responsibility Act. The Illegal Immigration Reform and Responsibility Act, or IIRAIRA, was an addition to the Immigration and Nationality Act and was signed into action by President Clinton. 287(g) is a program under IIRAIRA that allows non-federal law enforcement to engage in federal immigration enforcement activities. Law enforcement agencies with 287(g) agreements receive training from ICE in immigration law, interviewing techniques and database usage. They use this training to identify and report undocumented immigrants who are detained in county jails. Currently, ICE has agreements with 78 law enforcement agencies and has trained over 1,500 law enforcement officers to enforce federal immigration law.
North Carolina currently has 6 active 287(g) agreements, all of which exist in county sheriff’s offices. These offices includes Cabarrus, Gaston, Henderson, Mecklenburg, Nash and Wake. The Cabarrus County Sheriff’s Office is very well known for its close relationship with ICE. Sheriff Van Shaw is a Republican who won by promising to form a close partnership with ICE to deport unlawful immigrants accused of crimes. Shaw believes that the 287(g) program keeps his county’s crime rate low by taking undocumented immigrant criminals off the street, and out of the country. However, during this recent fiscal year only 83 inmates were taken into ICE custody, with 56 being deported. These encounters only made up 2 percent of the county’s total arrests, with 8 percent of Cabarrus county’s population being foreign-born. In addition, a Charlotte Observer reporter was ignored when he asked ICE and the Sheriff’s Office to explain how many inmates were arrested for low-level misdemeanors. It seems like Sheriff Shaw’s claims need to be fact-checked.
In a federal document obtained by the Charlotte Observer, it was shown that the Cabarrus County Sheriff’s Office received a detainee day rate of $57.75. According to an article by Politifact, detainees are usually held an average of 40 days. This means that it costs the federal government $2,310 to hold just one immigrant detainee in the Cabarrus County Jail for 40 days. Can you imagine the cost of detaining 83 inmates over the course of a year? Now I understand why Sheriff Shaw seems so keen on working with ICE.
Besides 287(g)’s frivolous use of federal funding, numerous researchers have noted the program doesn’t have an impact on crime. A 2011 report by the Migration Policy Institute noted that 287(g) does not target perpetrators of serious crime. The report found that about half of 287(g) activity was related to noncitizens being apprehended for misdemeanors and traffic offenses. A similar conclusion was made by the ACLU of North Carolina and UNC Chapel Hill’s Immigration and Human Rights Policy Clinic. Their 2009 report on the 287(g) program in NC found out that the program often deviates from its legal requirements and is frequently used as a, “tool for intimidation and isolation of foreign nationals and Hispanic residents and citizens.” They also discovered that during the month of May, 2008, 83 percent of immigrants arrested by Gaston County ICE Officers were charged with traffic violations. A 2010 DHS Office of the Inspector General report noted that there needs to be, “a comprehensive approach to determining whether 287(g) goals for removing criminal aliens who pose a threat to public safety are being achieved.”
287(g) can also lead to more crime in the community as noncitizens may be afraid to report crime to the police for fear of being deported. A political science professor by the name of Tom K. Wong performed an experimental survey on undocumented immigrants in San Diego County. The survey was active between September and November of 2018 and had 594 respondents. Wong noticed there was a significant behavioral change in respondents who figured out local police worked with ICE. These respondents were 61 percent less likely to report crimes they witnessed and 43 percent less likely to tell police they were the victims of a crime. 68.3 percent also admitted that they’d be less likely to participate in a public event where police may be nearby. A 2013 study by the Department of Urban Planning and Policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago had similar results. The report said that 44 percent of the latinos they surveyed were less likely to contact the police because they were afraid they would ask about their immigration status.
In my opinion, the 287(g) program is a nativist, xenophobic witch hunt that demonizes immigrants. The program fails to prevent crime, frightens immigrant communities into silence and is potentially wasting millions in taxpayer money. It’s also being used by Republicans and ICE to further their political goals by portraying immigrants as violent criminals who are destroying the American way. As Former Representative Dennis Kucinich say, “I take issue with many people’s description of people being “illegal” immigrants. There aren’t any illegal human beings as far as I’m concerned.”