In many parts of North Carolina, the debate has resurfaced over the effectiveness of the 287(g) deportation program, which operates in the prisons of six counties. But after 12 years of unsuccessful operation and a deluge of criticisms, it is hard to understand how some authorities, even candidates for the primaries, insist on defending a program that is only popular among those who love meaningless deportations.
What is 287(g)? It is an agreement between U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and some counties that allows local agents from the sheriff’s office to exercise powers that are not their jurisdiction: enforcing immigration laws.
Under the program, any immigrant who arrives in jail– for whatever reason– in which 287(g) is in force, will be identified and that information will be passed on to ICE, where it will eventually go to the deportation process.
ICE operates 287(g) in 76 law enforcement agencies in 20 states.
Although it is not a border region, North Carolina ranks third among states with the most counties (6 in total) where 287(g) operates. More than 20,000 people have been placed in deportation proceedings since it was implemented in North Carolina in 2006.
The original idea, according to the proponents of the program, was to identify dangerous criminals. But the reality is that 287(g) has been used to deport thousands of undocumented workers who committed minor traffic offenses, such as driving without a license. At least a dozen university studies throughout the country have denounced the program.
Officials such as Sheriff Irwin Carmichael of Mecklenburg County (who is seeking re-election), Charles McDonald of Henderson County, and Terry Johnson of Alamance (a county that wants to reinstate the program), defend the 287(g) program with overblown press conferences, in which they offer photographs of a handful of violent criminals processed through the program. Yet when asked to show figures of all those processed and the reasons they were arrested, there is complicit silence.
The sheriff’s offices that receive money for implementing 287(g) assure that the program keeps our communities safer. However, an extensive study published on April 18 by the CATO Institute notes that 287(g) did not decrease crime in North Carolina.
There is something that 287(g) has been effective at doing– generating fear among the immigrant community and distrust toward the police.
A comprehensive study conducted by The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill called ‘The 287(g) Program: The Costs and Consequences of Local Immigration Enforcement in North Carolina Communities’ affirms that: “…Fear of police has impacted public safety by discouraging Hispanics from reporting crime. Interviews in 287(g) jurisdictions suggest that there has been a rise in underreporting of crime in Hispanic communities.”
The fear that immigrants have of the authorities only benefits criminals.
Neither public opinion nor academic studies nor figures on the crime rates support 287(g). Why continue supporting those who defend this absurd program? In the upcoming primary elections, we cannot give our vote to candidates or officials who support 287(g).