United Fort Worth seeks Tarrant County immigration enforcement information
The 287(g) program is rapidly expanding in the United States and suffers from a lack of transparency, according to a new study published by the Center for American Progress.
Under section 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, the program is a partnership between local law enforcement agencies and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). By entering into the agreement, law enforcement agencies receive delegated authority for immigration enforcement within their jurisdictions.
Currently 78 law enforcement agencies across 20 states have entered into the 287(g) program. The Tarrant County Sheriff’s Department is one of 25 Texas entities with 287(g) agreements. Texas is the state with the most agreements overall.
The Center for American Progress explains that when a law enforcement agency enters into a 287(g) agreement, it dedicates local staff and resources to greater immigration enforcement. The Washington D.C.-based think-tank cites the absence of steering committees and community engagement as contributing factors to problems associated with the program.
“As the growth of 287(g) agreements is likely to continue nationwide, a lack of transparency and poor oversight will only aggravate their negative impacts on local communities,” Claudia Flores of the Center for American Progress wrote. “For localities, any attempts to discourage participation from community members, particularly those most affected by the 287(g) program, puts community trust at great risk and fails to provide the crucial oversight needed to prevent these programs from having adverse effects in communities.”
An inspection report issued by the Department of Homeland Security Office of the Inspector General (OIG) reveals concerns with how ICE keeps up with staffing a program that’s growing so quickly.
“ICE approved the 40 additional applicants without planning for a corresponding increase in program management staffing, determining how to promptly deliver needed information technology (IT) equipment to participants, or ensuring participants are fully trained,” the OIG report from September 2018 reads, in part. “Specifically, ICE did not analyze program needs to determine how many additional 287(g) program managers should be hired and was not able to hire enough to keep up with the quick expansion.”
David McClelland, chief of staff for Tarrant County Sheriff Bill Waybourn, said that Waybourn campaigned on immigration issues prior to his election. After taking office, Waybourn’s team met with local Democrat and Republican officials, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other agencies to answer questions related to the program.
The Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office has also set up a steering committee, McClelland said. They plan to have the first meeting in late November.
Local grassroots coalition United Fort Worth has protested Tarrant County’s participation in the program over the last year, claiming that it separates families.
However, McClelland explained, the only officers who have been trained under 287(g) work in the Tarrant County Jail. He said patrol officers in the field aren’t looking for undocumented immigrants when responding to calls.
“If someone is a victim or a witness to a crime, our deputies are not going to be concerned about their immigration status,” McClelland said. “We are going to do our best to help them and protect innocent people from evil people. We only look at a person’s immigration status in the brick and mortar of our jails.”