Arpaio Shakes His Fist at 287(g) Justice

By Julianne Hing Oct 06, 2009

I don’t get to say it very often on RaceWire, but this post contains only good news. And good immigration news at that. Let’s start with the smaller headlines. Cities across the U.S. are coming to their senses around 287(g)! Two Massachusetts jurisdictions, the town of Framingham and Barnstable county, announced late last week that their police departments were ending their 287(g) partnerships with ICE that authorized local police officers to enforce federal immigration law. From the Boston Globe:

“It doesn’t benefit the police department to engage in deportation and immigration enforcement,” [Framingham Police Chief Steven] Carl said today. “We’re done. I told them to come get the computers.” He said he decided to withdraw over the summer after federal officials asked him to expand the officers’ duties to detaining immigrants for deportation, transporting detainees, and having police testify in immigration cases.

On the same day, Middlesex County in New Jersey announced they were ending their own 287(g) agreement. The debate over 287(g) is usually framed in terms of public safety–as in, who would dare report a crime or come forward as a witness when immigrants live in daily fear of any interaction with police officers?–but it sounds like Middlesex County decided it just wasn’t worth the cost. From

County Counsel Tom Kelso summed up the county’s reasoning for terminating its contract with ICE by saying: “They want us to do their job at the county’s expense.”

But the giant cherry on top of all of this? Everyone’s favorite (and by "favorite" I mean most reviled) sheriff, Joe Arpaio, is being reined in by the federal government. And can I just say, it took you long enough, folks. He’s still got 287(g), but with restrictions. JJ Hensley, writing for Arizona Central, sounds almost pouty:

Arpaio said on Friday that he had signed a contract with ICE that would authorize sheriff’s deputies to continue screening inmates in county jails for immigration violations. Without an agreement that authorizes immigration screenings on the street, deputies will need probable cause to detain a suspected illegal immigrant until federal agents can determine the suspect’s immigration status.

What a shock this must be to Arpaio, to find out he can’t keep roaming the streets of Maricopa County and detaining anyone who looks like they’re undocumented. I can just imagine how angry Arpaio is that he can’t harass people waiting at bus stops and coming out of the grocery store and driving home from school. Of course, we all know Arpaio never let the law get in the way of him carrying out his own brand of immigration enforcement, but this is good news. When it comes to the ongoing fight for immigration reform, I think the news offers a few takeaways. DHS Secretary Napolitano and the Obama administration are obviously hearing the organized outcry over enforcement policy. They are obviously hearing the anger over civil rights abuses at the hands of the worst offenders and the outrage over our disastrous, inhumane detention system. But her answers to these pressing problems are weak, and it’s going to take vigilance and a very strong and loud opposition to push for real, just change. I mean, congrats and all, but scaling down Arpaio’s 287(g) was really the best you could do? Maybe Jan, if I may, now’s a good time to stop with this whole enforcement now, enforcement forever strategy and realize it’s the policies that criminalize immigrants. Maybe you can take the news of these canceled 287(g) contracts as a hint that ramped up enforcement isn’t making anyone safer. Local police departments are finding that out, when will you?