By Jadan Buzzard | USA
Police officers are sworn to serve and protect their respective communities. These men and women fulfill an essential function, protecting citizens from dangerous criminals who strive to violate natural rights. However, many police departments harbor a dark secret. These departments partake in a program intended to deputize local law enforcement officials to enforce federal immigration laws, granting many officers broad discretion in their policing practices. This program, known as “287(g),” was enacted as a part of the Immigration and Nationality Act, which amended the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996. In essence, it grants the Department of Homeland Security the jurisdiction to enter into agreements with local police departments, giving those local police the ability to act as federal immigration agents. Once entered into an agreement with DHS, local police can interrogate individuals to determine immigration status, work with DHS databases, issue immigration detainers, and transfer immigrants over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement for deportation. As one might expect, the 287(g) agreement program severely impacts local communities, destroying trust in the police and spiking serious crime. Citizens ought to recognize this program as flying in the face of good policing practices. Eliminating the program will create an environment that encourages community trust, boosts the economy, and respects the civil rights of all Americans.
Investigations conducted by the Department of Justice uncovered sweeping discriminatory practices in several departments with 287(g) agreements. Does the name “Joe Arpaio” ring a bell? He was the Maricopa County sheriff in Arizona, recently pardoned by President Trump for unlawful enforcement of immigration laws and severe police misconduct allegations. The 287(g) agreement his department had with the DHS granted him the power to sweep Latino communities for illegal immigrants, interrogating any minorities he deemed suspicious. This practice ought to be opposed by all liberty-minded individuals. When officers begin to make judgments based on physical criteria, like skin color, the result is counterproductive and dehumanizing to people of color. Local enforcement officers should focus on protecting the public from dangerous criminals, not immigrants (who are actually less likely to commit crimes than people born in the United States). The 287(g) program displaces police priorities, moving them from productive work to pursuing small crimes and traffic violations.
This raises another issue with the program: it destroys community trust in the police. Community trust is essential to the safety of a given community. Minorities need to feel comfortable revealing important information to police officers about serious crime. These individuals are significantly less likely to assist law enforcement with a serious crime if police are constantly questioning their immigration status. In fact, according to The Center for American Progress in March 2017, “70 percent of unauthorized immigrants and 44 percent of Latinos are less likely to communicate with law enforcement if they believe officers will question their immigration status or that of people they know.” Thus, not only is the 287(g)agreement program racially discriminatory, but it also limits the effectiveness of law enforcement in general. Police often rely on insider information when pursuing a serious crime, and a lack of information can leave a police investigation severely handicapped. This leads to crime spikes in local communities, driving police to suspect minorities yet again, encouraging more discrimination. The ensuing crime spiral is dangerous and should be avoided at all costs.
A final issue with the 287(g) agreement program is the impact it has on federalism, the system created by the American founders to protect against tyranny. Local police have a specific function – to protect local communities from serious crime – and federal immigration agents have their own function – to enforce federal immigration law. While my view on federal immigration policy is another story, separating jurisdictions provides each actor more efficiency in its operations. But federalism also guards against the usurpation of power by the larger branch, which in this case is the federal government. The founders implemented this system throughout the American government, and it tends to work. The 287(g) program, however, creates an unnecessary (and even dangerous) overlap between federal and state jurisdiction. It turns local police officers into federal agents, consequently offering their jurisdictions over to the federal government. The precedent set by 287(g) can have far-reaching negative effects on future policy. We cannot wait idly by as the federal government continues to usurp powers deliberately left to state and local governments. This provides yet another warrant for the abolishing the program once and for all. Through this act, communities can stand for their Constitutional rights and guard against the onslaught of federal usurpation.
Unfortunately, Trump is pursuing efforts to expand 287(g). The acting director of ICE even announced plans to triple the number of agreements by the end of 2017. This, to put it lightly, is not helpful. Trump should not be focusing on undocumented immigrants that pose little threat to overall safety or the economy. In fact, immigration generally boosts economic growth due to lower labor costs. Many politicians talk of immigrants “stealing” American jobs – a flawed understanding of macroeconomics. Businesses gain revenue from cheaper labor, which allows them to expand production, providing cheaper goods and even more jobs to the public. Undocumented immigration should not top of the list of “crack-down” priorities for the Trump administration, yet somehow it continues to pervade his policy and rhetoric.
While some may consider 287(g) rather irrelevant due to its small size and lack of media coverage, I consider it to be critical. Allowing “unimportant” policies to escape public attention is dangerous. It encourages policymakers to slide back-door regulations into large bills in hopes that they remain hidden. This practice is simply an extension of the nanny-state bureaucracy our government is currently devolving into. We, as individuals, have an obligation to preserve the principles of liberty that our country was founded upon. Without them, no nation can truly flourish. Take a stand against 287(g) and other federal policies that violate natural rights and grant officials broad, unnecessary power. United, we will remain a formidable force, against which tyranny cannot prevail.