June 2, 2010
DHS Report Exposes Abuses in State and Local Immigration Enforcement
On April 1, 2010 the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of
Inspector General issued a comprehensive report confirming civil rights
abuses in Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) 287(g) program, a
federal program that permits state and local law enforcement agencies to
arrest individuals for the sole purpose of identifying whether they have
lawful immigration status. The report, which was based on field
inspections in the first six months of 2009, notes that many of the
arrested individuals were not cited for any criminal offenses and in
some cases were even victims of criminal offenses.
According to the Inspector General, some local police have launched
operations with the aim of detaining individuals for minor offenses and
violations of local ordinances for the purpose of identifying
unauthorized immigrants. Police apprehended immigrants even when they
had no prior arrests on state or local charges. The report confirms that
officers arrest individuals for minor offenses. In one case, a
supervisor recounted how a state highway patrol officer transported an
accident victim to a jail to determine the victim's immigration status.
The officer did not take him to a hospital. The victim was not even
brought to the jail to be charged with a state crime. The sole --and
improper-- purpose of the officer's actions was to determine whether the
victim was deportable.
Through agreements signed with nearly 60 state and county police
forces, the federal program allows local officers to question immigrants
about their legal status and detain them for deportation. The report
acknowledges that state and local police officers who participate in the
program are not adequately screened, trained or supervised. The lack of
training and little oversight from federal agents lead to the violation
of many immigrants’ civil rights and significant enforcement
inconsistencies from place to place.
The report also noted that Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
failed to provide accurate information about the program to Congress and
the public. In July 2009, ICE officials acknowledged widespread
criticism of the program and asked all participating law enforcement
agencies to sign new agreements that clarified its goals.