Tougher Bills Emerge for Immigration Enforcement
March 31, 2010 By Alison Bowen
A week after tens of thousands of immigrants converged on Washington’s National Mall to call for immigration reform, the latest proposals percolating in state legislatures are not what they had in mind.
Three proposals within the last week seek to toughen laws against immigrants and broaden local officers’ authority to arrest them. One even caught the attention of Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.
In one proposed bill, Maryland is posed to be one of the first states in the nation to mandate 287(g), a program that deputizes state and local law enforcement to enforce immigration laws.
The Washington Examiner reports that the bill would require some state police to undergo the four-week training with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
According to the ICE Web site , 63 localities are actively engaged with 287(g), including 840 officers. This number has fluctuated throughout the years as some departments dropped and others joined. In the past, as many as 67 departments were involved.
Immigrant advocates say these programs encourage racial profiling. Proponents of 287(g) say it corrals criminal immigrants, contributing to a 40 percent increase in deportations so far this year, according to ICE.
Right now, the only department signed up in Maryland under 287(g) is the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office, which entered the program in February 2008.
Last weekend, the county’s film festival hosted “9500 Liberty,” a film investigating the local-federal partnerships like 287(g). Audience members said they’re afraid their mixed-race children will be arrested or harassed, reported the Frederick News-Post.
In Georgia, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that in one proposal passing the Senate last week, state and local governments will get a financial boost for turning over undocumented immigrants to the federal government.
Under the proposed bill, sponsored by state senator John Wiles (R-37), local governments would receive a 20 percent bonus for utilizing the 287(g) program and a 10 percent bonus when utilizing Secure Communities, a similar program which checks arrested people’s immigration status.
“Georgia welcomes anyone who wants to be a law-abiding citizen to make a better life for themselves and their family,” Wiles said in a press release. “For those who choose to break the law, they must suffer the consequences.”
The bill would only take effect “when funds are available to be appropriated.”
And in Arizona, where Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio has become one of the most controversial 287(g) figures for his roundups of immigrants, a proposal is circulating that would allow police to arrest undocumented immigrants on trespassing charges.
The New York Times reported last week that this would be a first for the nation, as the bill would outlaw hiring day laborers and prohibit people from knowingly transporting undocumented immigrants, including giving a ride to a family member.
On the international level, The New York Times reported last week that American officials will team up with Mexican federal police. The increased border patrol is an effort to combat the drug violence spilling across the border.
The advocates can take solace in at least one thing – administration officials say that reform is one of President Barack Obama’s pressing issues.
“We’re going to keep pushing this until we get it over the finish line,” Napolitano told an Arizona State University audience last week. She also criticized the proposed legislation in her home state, saying such laws “take away the ability of law enforcement in different communities to set their own priorities.”
This post was corrected on April 1, 2010. An earlier version incorrectly said that Maryland was the first state to mandate 287(g).
About Alison Bowen
Alison is a Missouri native and New York City freelance writer who has wanted to cover Latin America since studying Spanish in Central America. After moving to Brooklyn, her work has appeared in The New York Times, the Daily News, the Manhattan Times and Women’s eNews. She earned a master’s degree in journalism and Latin American and Caribbean studies at New York University. Her thesis focused on immigration policies after September 11, including counterterrorism measures, and their effects on the daily lives of immigrants in New York City.