by Restore Fairness, Thu Oct 22, 2009 at 11:27:06 AM EDT
In a floor speech delivered today, U.S. Rep. Jared Polis had some harsh words for the 287(g) program which grants broad immigration enforcement powers to local law enforcement agencies, holding it responsible for a "sweep of terror" that "scares victims and witnesses of crimes to avoid contacting police for fear of being mistreated."
Given Sheriff Arpaio's so called crime and immigrations sweeps over the weekend in Maricopa County, Arizona, the speech is a well planned rebuff to the administrations renewal of 67 agreements with local law enforcement agencies to enforce immigration laws.
Arpaio, whose deputies had arrested 16 people last Friday on unspecified charges said, "I am the elected sheriff. I don't take orders from the federal government." And even though his agreement with the government extends only to immigration enforcement in the jails (and has been expressly removed from the streets), he continues to defy the law. To prove his point, he distributed a document that he claimed included language from Title 8 of the federal code authorizing him to conduct sweeps, which was eventually proven to come from an anti-immigrant Web site, and not from federal statute.
Notwithstanding Sheriff Arpaio's notoriety, stories of racial profiling and violations are emerging across the country.
From Cobbs County, Georgia comes a damning ACLU report showing how the 287(g) program has led to an intense mistrust of local law enforcement within their community. Individual testimonies include Joanna who once put out a fire in her kitchen herself because she was too afraid to call 911 for fear of immigration consequences. Or Jonathan, a Latino man who was shopping for jewelry for his wife at Macy's when a security guard began to follow him and called the police. Jonathan was then detained by the officer without being informed about the reason and was subsequently charged with loitering and deported, charges that were later dismissed by the district attorney. His family now lives in constant fear of the "seemingly unlimited power of the police to arrest a Latino person for any or no reason at all."
The report indicates a marked pattern to the way that the Cobb police regularly use minor traffic violations to detain immigrants, stopping them based on the color of their skin, and then denying their basic rights. Sharon, an American citizen, tells the story about her husband Angel, who was pulled over for an incomplete stop at a stop sign. He was subsequently arrested and when Sharon tried to get him out on bond, the officer told her that there was an immigration detainer on him and he could not be released. He was then transferred to a detention center while Sharon who is disabled waits for the release of her husband, whom she depends on "for everything."
It's time we listen to Members of Congress like Rep. Polis who is willing to stand up to a system that is clearly not working. Or the Law Enforcement Engagement initiative, which has many state and local law enforcement officials speaking out for immigration reform that respects fairness and due process.