500 Groups Launch Campaign Against Obama's Expansion of Immigration Enforcement Program

Over 500 local and national advocacy groups have promised to “voice their discontent” in coming months with the Obama administration’s continuation of 287(g), a Bush-era program that allows local police to enforce U.S. immigration laws.

Day Laborer Arrested by Phoenix PD

A day laborer is arrested by Phoenix police. (Photo: A.J. Alexander)

The groups sent a two-page letter (plus 13 pages of signatures) to President Obama last week, asking him “to immediately terminate the 287(g) program operated by the Department of Homeland Security.” The letter will be followed by “vigils, marches and other activities across the country,” said the National Immigration Law Center in a press release.

The 287(g) program — named for a section of the Immigration and Nationality Act — has been heavily criticized for leading to racial profiling and creating a climate of fear in immigrant communities.

“The Obama administration has responded to documented violations within the 287(g) program by expanding it and creating an illusory complaint process,” said Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the center, in the statement. “Ostracizing potential victims of and witnesses to crime and providing them with a disincentive to trust the authorities will make all our communities less safe.”

Carlos García, a community organizer with the Macehualli day laborer center in Phoenix, said in the release that the program “encourages civil rights abuses and makes it more difficult for police to do their primary job of fighting crime, endangering public safety for everyone.”

“I hope President Obama, as a former community organizer, will recognize that, in defense of their civil rights, immigrant communities have organized around the country in opposition to this failed experiment of the Bush administration.”

Despite the heavy criticism, the Obama administration recently announced the program’s expansion and new local law enforcement agencies are joining it, including Danbury, Conn., and Morristown, N.J.

While Maricopa County, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio has attracted much of the criticism for allegedly misusing of the authority granted under the program, the letter points to other jurisdictions that also deserve attention.

“Reports of abuse in local communities have been widespread. In Davidson County, Tennessee, the Sheriff’s Office used its 287(g) power to apprehend undocumented immigrants driving to work, standing at day labor sites, or while fishing off piers. One pregnant woman—charged with driving without a license—was shackled to her bed during labor.”

The new campaign attracted groups from across the country, even from states where 287(g) has not yet arrived.

Denise Welch, of Oregon advocacy group Partnership for Safety and Justice, told the Public News Service the group signed the letter because 287(g) promotes racial profiling. “In other parts of the country, some local law enforcement agencies that have been granted 287(g) powers are using the program to target communities of color for arrest,” she said.

Others signing the letter include the American Civil Liberties Union, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the National Council of La Raza, and the Service Employees International Union.

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