The announcement of 287g being phased out is not a sigh of relief

Earlier in February, the announcement of the 287g program being phased out came as shock to many people. For organizers and community activists, it definitely represents a move that supposedly was meant to take away a “bad” program and replace it with an even “badder” one, Secure Communities.  For the Obama administration, it’s a step in the “right direction”–eliminating funding to the least productive agreements to date. In other words, those counties that are NOT deporting the number of immigrants that they are supposed to will not see Uncle Sam giving them money for their troubles. To think that the productivity of a program lies in its ability to mass incarcerate and deport fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers.

In a USA Today article, the Department of Homeland Security will save $17 million dollars in phasing out 287g. Since all contracts between ICE and local enforcement run three years, some agreements will be up by this year. In Collier County’s case, the agreement will be up by October.

Collier County’s Sheriff, Kevin Rambosk, recently mentioned in a Newspress article that he will seek renewal. 287g has been around since October 2007 and was renewed in 2009. The program has come under fire for various reasons but most notably, because of Maricopa County’s own Sheriff Joe Arpaio and the many violations that were found under his agreement with ICE. Particularly, reports from  MPI and the OIG state that the directives of 287g are not being meant. 287g is supposed to prioritize those individuals who pose serious national security and public safety risks. However, vast majority of the agreements are run to identify ALL individuals with minor violations, which include traffic offenses like driving without a license.

In this area, the people who we talk to through our community initiative, the Collier County Neighborhood Stories Project, are victims of this dragnet program and are caught through traffic stops and minor violations. We are talking about people getting caught for something that, in social and legal terms, isn’t deemed a violent or aggravated crime. This includes driving without a license, petty theft and DUI. These same folks tell us that because of the fact that they are getting questioned for their immigration status by the police, it doesn’t make sense to call them to report a crime or for help. What’s even more disturbing is that domestic violence victims say that they rather take a beating than call the police and file a report. How does that make any sense?

So, technically, 287g being phased out is supposed to make me happy for all the reasons I just mentioned above. But it doesn’t. In fact, it sends me into a panic attack knowing that Secure Communities, which already exists in every county in the state of Florida, could be fully operational nationwide by 2013. Secure Communities will allow police to cross reference national security databases with their own through fingerprints. It disturbs many advocates and community members because of its lack of transparency, oversight and accountability both at the national and local level. Police officers would make the arbitrary decision to identify someone walking down the street as being “undocumented” and could follow up by taking their prints and that’s it–that’s all it takes. They are in the system. I mean, making this fully operational at a national level will only mean that it’ll be easier to institutionalize racial profiling without anyone ever noticing what is happening in the first place.

This whole thing is like playing Mario Brothers. What good is it that Mario kills King Koopa’s posse if they just reappear again, bigger and badder? We don’t get what we should. We get WORSE. Needless to say, this announcement is definitely not a sigh of relief. It only means that the fight just kicked into overtime.

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