On March 2, officials in Hudson County, New Jersey announced their decision to stop participating in the 287(g) program, a voluntary initiative created by Congress to enable local police and sheriffs’ departments to inform federal officials of deportable aliens in their custody.
The New Jersey chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) took credit for the “push” that caused Hudson Country to end the program.
“In a county where nearly half of all residents are immigrants, participation in 287(g) exposed our neighbors to the risk of being swept up in the Trump administration’s mass deportation campaign and endangered everyone here,” the NJ-ACLU said in a statement.
The New York chapter also has 287(g) in its sights. The NY-ACLU notified the Rensselaer County Sheriff’s office of its intent to monitor “implementation of this agreement to ensure that civil rights abuses including racial profiling, which have accompanied such programs in other states,” occur in the county.
“The sheriff’s decision to deputize officers to work on behalf of ICE will sow distrust between immigrant communities and law enforcement,” Melanie Trimble, NY-ACLU Capital Region director, said in a statement.
But similar campaigns may not work in convincing Mecklenburg County, North Carolina Sheriff Irwin Carmichael to end it.
Since the county began participating in 287(g) in 2006, nearly 4,000 of the total 15,478 inmates processed for deportation have been arrested on DWI charges. At the time it started, law enforcement were only able to identify one-third of those in jails.
“Our whole purpose for having it is to know who is in our jail,” Carmichael told reporters today during a press conference to clear the air about the program.
It was the latest effort by Carmichael to counter misinformation made by activist groups, county councilmen and officials of the Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners (BOCC). In January, New Charlotte City Council member Braxton Winston called for its end, asserting 287(g) was creating fear among immigrant communities. And the program has become an issue in the May election for sheriff where Carmichael, a Democrat, will face two other candidates who want 287(g) ended.
Rather than get mired in the mud, Carmichael has countered the noise with a quiet information campaign that began with an open letter to the BOCC. In the letter, which he also read at a public meeting, he asked critics to “refrain from espousing grossly misleading information based upon your personal failure to seek Program clarification that has been offered time and again,” Carmichael wrote.
Although the ACLU and its allies claim most illegals are detained on mere traffic offenses, he noted that among those in his jails were individuals with previous convictions for murder, arson, burglary, and statutory rape of a child under the age of 13.
He then described the case of one illegal alien who had been allowed to remain in the U.S. since 2009 because she had three children, said Carmichael. Before her arrest in 2016, she had been charged with violating her probation, simple assault of an officer and driving while license revoked, among otheroffenses.
It was only in 2016, after deputies checked her immigration status pursuant to the 287(g) agreement, that she was held for transfer to ICE custody.
Carmichael repeatedly stressed that a “person will never encounter 287(g) unless they have been arrested,” adding that his deputies are not involved with ICE enforcement actions or seeking out illegal immigrants to arrest.
He might have the facts on his side, but Carmichael and other defenders of the program still have a fight on their hands.