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Despite changes to immigration enforcement program civil liberties of Latinos still threatened

Jackson Chin [Associate Counsel, LatinoJustice PRLDEF]: "The changes announced by ICE to operating its controversial 287(g) program and the gradual upgrading of current state-local agreements do not inspire confidence among the civil rights and human rights community. These changes are ultimately superficial and flawed. Unfortunately, they come too late to overcome systemic problems and cannot justify the expansion of the 287(g) program into new localities.

Most advocates are alarmed by the escalating number of arrests and the use of racial profiling by local police and sheriffs, CBP and ICE agents. ICE's purported mission to arrest and remove the "most serious criminal aliens" has been turned on its head as is underscored by the percentage and volume of local law enforcement's disproportionate arrests and detentions of Latinos for minor traffic infractions and low-level offenses.

A recent GAO report [PDF file] and other civil rights and human rights reports provide ample documentation to support critics of ICE's 287(g) programs. For many years, there was inadequate oversight on 287(g) program agencies - no reporting requirements, no accountability, no independent audits, and, the implementation of few, if any, uniform standards.

The recent Police Foundation report [PDF file, abstract], through its network of law enforcement executives, shows that the 287(g) program has had a corrosive effect on local policing. Shifting already strained resources into civil immigration enforcement is at the expense of serious crime-fighting; loss of trust and cooperation from crime victims and the communities they serve have created "a negative overall impact on public safety."

On the flip-side of the coin, ICE and local enforcement of civil immigration law have created dire consequences [PDF file] for literally tens of thousands of immigrants (documented and not) and citizens caught up and detained in the gulag of local jails, federal and privately-leased detention facilities. Poor detention conditions, flawed judicial review for civil immigration detentions, no oversight of ICE officers' parole decisions, extra-judicial expedited removal of aliens without access to counsel, lawful permanent residents put in "mandatory detention" for minor offenses, arbitrary medical care for detainees (over 74 detainee deaths in the past five years) and many other nagging questions underscore serious due process and liberty concerns.

Many problems will continue to plague the ICE 287(g) program and its operations. Our constitutional values and civil liberties do suffer under an enforcement regime whose easiest targets are the most vulnerable among us and where racial and ethnic traits are commonly used."

Opinions expressed in JURIST Commentary are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of JURIST's editors, staff, donors or the University of Pittsburgh.

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