Bucking a growing national trend, Los Angeles County Supervisors voted 3-0 last Tuesday to renew a 287(g) agreement with ICE. This controversial program deputizes local law enforcement officers to enforce federal immigration law and is part of a broader web of enforcement programs that funnel immigrants from the criminal justice system into detention and deportation.
“Conceived as a program to ‘disappear’ immigrants without due process or probable cause, the [287g] program works hand in hand with the infamous Secure Communities program,” the National Day Laborers Organizing Network said in a statement on the eve of the vote. “The result of jail based deportations has been a deportation surge, civil rights violations, and erosion of public safety.”
“Los Angeles County Supervisors are sending a message that they are out of synch and out of touch, not just with Angelenos but also with the rest of America on this issue.”
Last week’s vote means Los Angeles County jail employees will continue to check the immigration status of those who are arrested and booked into jail. Only one other county in California continues to participate in the 287(g) program. Ironically, the vote was first scheduled to take place on the one-year mark of the signing of the California TRUST Act, a law that limited local law enforcement entanglement with immigration enforcement. The TRUST Act specifically limited the practice of honoring immigration detainers, or formal requests by ICE to keep a person in police custody based only on the suspicion that they may be deportable.
“Across the nation, sheriff departments in more than 250 counties have stopped honoring ICE detainers because of various concerns ranging from constitutionality, public safety, and costs,” wrote Angelica Salas, Executive Director of the Coalition for Human Immigration Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA). “Yet, Los Angeles County appears intent to soldier on, tilting at the windmills, seeing community members as threats. By supporting the continuation of the [Memorandum of Agreement with ICE], Los Angeles County Supervisors are sending a message that they are out of synch and out of touch, not just with Angelenos but also with the rest of America on this issue.”
At Tuesday’s City Council meeting in Los Angeles, immigrant advocates turned their backs and raised their fists in protest. After an hour of silent protest, the ICE Out of LA Coalition walked out of the meeting. On Wednesday, the California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance, part of the coalition that participated in last week’s protest, responded to the vote with this Facebook post:
“We have to get rid of this good immigrant and bad immigrant ideology that these politicians carry deep within. We believe that everyone has the right to fight for their innocence while remaining close to their families. We also believe in second chances, because felonies don’t define a person.”
Though 287(g) is less widespread than it once was, particularly following the 2012 announcement that ICE would phase out the “task force model,” the program as a whole has not ended. The broader task force model deputized local police officers to enforce federal immigration law while patrolling the public. And while the “jail model” of 287(g) also deputizes local police, , which is what LA County voted to renew, police only question those who have been arrested and booked in jail.
Thirty five state and local jurisdictions still have active 287(g) agreements with ICE. The 287(g) program is one of 13 different ICE ACCESS programs that drastically expand the reach of federal immigration authorities by involving local police and agencies in the enforcement of immigration law. These programs, along with the criminalization of immigrants more broadly, make up the machinery that has devastated communities by detaining and deporting more people than ever before.
The stakes of the Los Angeles County decision are high. One in ten residents in the city is undocumented, with nearly half (48%) identifying as Hispanic or Latino. Enforcement programs like 287(g) have a long record of promoting discriminatory policing and eroding public safety.
While the LA decision is a significant blow for immigrant rights and racial justice, advocates remain confident that laws like 287(g) will ultimately be revoked. It’s up to all of us to make sure they’re right.
Lauren Taylor is a field organizer at the Center for New Community.