Updated-October 15, 2012
October 11, 2012
287g Makes Us Less Safe
By Barbara Mainster
See Immokalee Bulletin publication
This month, more than 40 civic and religious leaders in Collier County — among them clergy, medical professionals, business owners and non-profit directors like myself — submitted a letter to Sheriff Kevin Rambosk to decry the harmful impacts we’ve personally observed from the Sheriff’s Office’s collaboration with federal immigration enforcement: the controversial 287g program.
As Collier leaders with our ears and eyes and hearts in the community, collectively representing many thousands of county residents, we sought to convey that the 287g program, which is up for renewal this month, is making our community less safe.
Surprisingly, instead of seeking to meet with some of us to figure out then how the Sheriff’s Office could sustain and improve the trust of the community, within hours we read his office’s statement to the press, which stated in part: “Collier County remains committed to the 287g program.”
No request to meet. No sign of worry that, as we wrote in our letter, “we have witnessed firsthand the widespread distrust and fear bred among families in our community due to the 287g program, and we know that your office’s continued participation in it will lamentably exacerbate this trend.”
Recently, an article in the Naples Daily News stated that Collier ranks 13th in the nation – behind major cities like Los Angeles, Houston and Las Vegas – in the number of deportations. The Sheriff mentions “crimes” that are committed in the area by undocumented immigrants. But what are these “crimes” exactly? The “crimes” mentioned by the Sheriff’s office could be tallied to let the public know how many deportations over the course of the implementation of the program were misdemeanors like motor vehicle infractions versus felonies, such as drug trafficking. That this tallying is not provided to the public upfront has to raise eyebrows. What is being hidden?
The Major Cities Chiefs Association, a professional association of chiefs and sheriffs from the largest cities in the United States and Canada, published a position paper on immigration stating that local collaboration between law enforcement and federal immigration programs “undermines the trust and cooperation with immigrant communities.”
Instead of focusing on community terrorism, Sheriff Rambosk should focus more on community policing. Professor Alexander Vernon, acting director of the Immigrant Rights and Asylum Clinic at Ave Maria Law School, said in an interview that the sheriff is “responsible for community policing so he’s got to take responsibility for the effects this kind of program is gonna have on the ground.” Without the trust of the community, there’s no way to really keep our streets safe.
On a daily basis, I speak to countless families who are afraid for their children.
The Daily News article noted, “5,100 children [were] in foster care because of detentions or deportations, according to a 2011 report by the Applied Research Center, including 17 in Collier County.” How we can fathom separating a mother from her child? How is this keeping our community safe?
Fear is pervasive in the Latino neighborhoods of Naples and Immokalee, and it is not limited to undocumented individuals. Legal permanent residents and U.S. citizens say they fear for their unlawfully present family members. These are real and present consequences that the Sheriff is dealing with currently. If he renews 287g, he will renew these consequences. 287g will not keep us safe if it limits local law enforcement from doing their job and gaining trust in the community.
287g is under scrutiny from the federal government. The Sheriff states over and over again that this program is carefully administered in accordance with the law. But how is this program, which was recently terminated from Alamance County, N.C. for not abiding by the law, supposed to keep us safe? Two of the top three policing activities cited by the Department of Justice as a reason for suspending the Alamance County Sheriff’s Office’s 287g status were “ACSO deputies target Latino drivers for traffic stops” and “ACSO deputies routinely locate checkpoints just outside Latino neighborhoods, forcing residents to endure police checks when entering or leaving their communities.” 287g is not a success and has failed dramatically in the past.
In deciding whether to renew 287g with Collier County, ICE and the Sheriff’s Department should consider the findings of a top story in the Naples Daily News this spring, which found that “of the 18 checkpoints run since the start of 2010, when the Sheriff’s Office began publicizing the checkpoints, nine have been in Immokalee, four in Golden Gate and two in Golden Gate Estates — areas with some of Collier County’s largest concentrations of Hispanics.”As in Alamance, Collier County has been targeting checkpoints in predominantly non-white communities. This in a county, according to the US Census, that is 90.2% white.
Sheriff Rambosk should not renew the 287g agreement. Otherwise, he will continue to erode the trust he has in these communities and his department won’t be effective. This will not keep us safe.
Barbara Mainster is Executive Director of Redlands Christian Migrant Association, an Immokalee-based non-profit corporation that operates child care centers and charter schools for at-risk children in rural Florida.