Published in October 2009.
Introduction and Executive Summary
The Cobb County Sheriff’s Office is one of seventy-seven state and local law enforcement agencies across the country and one of five agencies in Georgia that are involved in a program known as 287(g), made possible through section 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). The 287(g) program allows local law enforcement representatives to act as immigration officers and participate in enforcement of federal civil immigration laws, per a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the Department of Homeland Security Immigration and Customs and Enforcement (ICE).
Though initially intended as a measure to combat violent crime and other felonies such as gang activity and drug trafficking, 287(g) agreements have come to undermine police work as immigrant communities, fearful of being deported and leery of local, de facto immigration officers, hesitate to report crime.iv The Major Cities Chiefs Association and the Police Foundation have both found that participating in 287(g) programs has harmed community policing efforts. In addition, law enforcement agencies that reallocate limited resources towards non-violent crimes, such as driving without a license or lack of insurance, may have scarce means left with which to combat crimes of violence and other felonies.
The 287(g) program has also encouraged and served as a justification for racial profiling and human rights violations by some local enforcement officers acting as immigration agents. Across the country, there have been several well-documented instances of 287(g)-related racial profiling. Some actions of local law enforcement have even prompted federal investigations and lawsuits. In Maricopa County, Arizona, Sheriff Joe Arpaio was given “the largest and most comprehensive 287(g) contract in the nation.”vii With these added powers, he rounded up large numbers of immigrants, often without probable cause, launching a “criminal illegal alien” crackdown which caused widespread terror in Maricopa County.viii In August 2009, the ACLU of Arizona filed a lawsuit against Arpaio’s office, for picking up a son driving his father to work and detaining them for hours without probable cause. Despite showing the arresting officers proof of their legal presence in the U.S., the father, a legal permanent resident, and the son, a U.S. citizen, were taken to a detention center after being picked up for what they thought was a routine traffic stop. There they were denied food and water and access to a restroom for several hours.xi In addition, the Justice Department started an investigation against Sheriff Joe Arpaio in March 2009 for possible civil rights violations, including racial profiling and unlawful search and seizure, while exercising immigration enforcement under 287(g).
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