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Tearing Families Apart

When the Police Team With ICE: More Racial Profiling


The Justice Department released a report on September 18, 2012 that found that deputies in Alamance County, North Carolina, target Latinos for traffic stops, and are four to ten times more likely to stop Latino drivers than non-Latino drivers. This enhanced racial profiling seems to be a direct result of a 287(g) agreement between Alamance County and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

What is 287 (g)?

Section 287 (g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act allows state and local law enforcement to participate with ICE, and even to be deputized for immigration enforcement after receiving four-week training sessions from ICE.       The Section 287 (g) program was passed into law in 1996. The first Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between immigration and local police was signed in 2002; by 2005, only three localities had signed agreements between local police and immigration authorities. In early 2005, federal funding for the program increased, and more localities began to sign on. By 2010, 71 agreements were in effect. Today, that number is about 68, as a few agreements have been rescinded – including that of Alamance County.

How do 287(g) agreements lead to racial profiling?

These agreements enable police officers to enforce federal immigration laws even when stopping people for minor traffic violations. Who is likely to be stopped for routine traffic violations?  A substantial body of research and legal cases suggests that someone who is “driving while Brown” (or Black) is likely to be racially profiled by police.  This has always been problematic, but now cooperation between criminal law enforcement and immigration law enforcement means that even routine traffic stops can lead to deportations, and Latino immigrant men in public spaces are most likely to be targeted.

Much of the public controversy over the 287 (g) program has centered on the possibility of racial profiling. Critics have pointed out that the vast majority (87%) of jurisdictions which have implemented 287 (g) programs are those with high immigrant growth rate, indicating that these programs are implemented in response to nativist fears. Additionally, there is evidence that these programs disproportionately target Latinos – a study in Davidson County, Tennessee revealed that officers in this county apprehended 5,333 immigrants through this program, and all but 102 were from Latin America.

In September 2012, the Justice Department released a report, subtitled, “Findings Show Pattern or Practice of Discriminatory Policing against Latinos.” This report found that deputies in Alamance County, North Carolina were between four and ten times more likely to stop Latino than non-Latino drivers; consistently stopped Latinos at checkpoints; and arrested Latinos for minor traffic violations while issuing citations or warnings to non-Latinos for the same violations. During the period under study, Alamance County participated in both the 287(g) program as well as Secure Communities. Immediately after the release of the report, DHS rescinded the 287(g) agreement and restricted access to Secure Communities.[1] Racial profiling is a major concern in matters of Police/Ice Cooperation.

There has been less focus on another obvious fact – men are more likely than women to be stopped by police officers. This means that there are important gendered implications of the program – men are more likely to be arrested, and women and children are more likely to be left behind. Although relatively few women are directly affected by the 287 (g) program, there is some evidence that the program could have pernicious effects on women. One example is domestic violence:  a recent study found that only about half of all battered women report perpetrators to authorities. This rate drops to 43% for women with stable immigration statuses, and 19% for undocumented women. When the police cooperate with immigration authorities, we can expect to see these low reporting rates fall even further.

Police cooperation with immigration also results in the deportation of long-term residents of the United States. Deportations are carried out by immigration law enforcement officers who work in two branches of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS): Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).  In Fiscal Year 2010, immigration law enforcement agents in these two branches of DHS apprehended over half a million non-citizens. The vast majority – 463,382 – were apprehended by the Border Patrol. The remaining 53,610 were encountered by ICE, usually within the interior of the United States, in cities such as Chicago, Atlanta, and San Francisco. How did ICE encounter these 50,000 non-citizens? Immigration law enforcement agents generally do not have license to walk up and down the streets of U.S. cities and demand proof of U.S. citizenship from people walking down the street. Moreover, ICE, only has 20,000 employees overall, only a fraction of whom are officers engaged in raiding homes and worksites arresting illegally present immigrants. ICE does not have the staff or resources to patrol the county. Instead, ICE works closely with criminal law enforcement agencies to apprehend immigrants.

ICE cooperation with police leads to larger numbers of long-term residents being deported because those non-citizens apprehended inside the United States are more likely to be long-term residents. And, ICE simply does not have the resources to deport large numbers of people from the interior of the United States. The massive raids ICE conducted during the Bush administration, for example, took months of planning, and the largest of these led to no more than a few hundred arrests. In 2008, 287 (g) officers identified 33,831 foreign nationals who were eventually deported – these arrests accounted for the majority of deportations from the interior of the United Sates. Additionally, the majority of those detained under this program were apprehended for minor violations such as driving with a broken taillight.

Police/ICE Cooperation has meant that more Latinos have been deported, and that more Latino families have been torn apart. In 2011, 97 percent of people deported from the United States were from Latin America and the Caribbean. Men, who are usually the breadwinners in families, are more likely to be deported – leaving women and children behind with much fewer resources. Long-term residents of the United States are much more likely to have children and families in the United States than migrants who have been in the United States for shorter periods of time.

According to a 2012 ICE report, between January 1 and June 30, 2011, ICE removed 46,486 non-citizens who reported having at least one U.S. citizen child. There are gendered implications to this enhancement of interior enforcement. Men, who are usually the breadwinners in families, are more likely to be deported – leaving women and children behind with much fewer resources. Long-term residents of the United States are much more likely to have children and families in the United States than migrants who have been in the United States for shorter periods of time. According to a 2012 ICE report, between January 1 and June 30, 2011, ICE removed 46,486 non-citizens who reported having at least one U.S. citizen child (ICE 2012). This is remarkable, as a previous report found that between 1997 and 2006, DHS deported about 100,000 people who had U.S. citizen children. Post-2006 reforms, including the enhancement of Police/ICE cooperation, then seem to have played a role in the realization of a ten-fold increase in the deportation of people who have U.S. citizen children. Since nearly all of these deportees are men, we can surmise that women are left behind as primary providers and caregivers. In some of the worst-case scenarios, children are left in foster care – a recent report revealed that there are currently over 5,000 children in foster care as a direct result of parental deportations.

Tanya Golash-Boza is the author of: Yo Soy Negro Blackness in PeruImmigration Nation: Raids, Detentions and Deportations in Post-9/11 Americaand Due Process Denied: Detentions and Deportations in the United States.