Originally Published in The Hill
Celine Castronuovo - March 17, 2021
A coalition of more than 100 law enforcement professionals and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) are joining together in calling on the Biden administration to end Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) local partnership programs.
In a letter sent Wednesday to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and shared exclusively with The Hill, members of the Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP) call for an end to the agency’s 287(g) program and ICE detainers in which local police officers are asked to cooperate with federal immigration law enforcement.
The coalition wrote that the programs are a “major factor destroying community trust” in local police and justice systems.
“As police, prosecutors, judges, and other criminal justice professionals, we know from firsthand experience that protecting public safety means rebuilding police-community trust,” they said. “Local police need to prioritize local safety, rather than sacrificing community safety to become pawns of federal immigration policy.”
The letter went on to explain that the 287(g) program, under which local officers are required to serve as immigration agents, also “encourages crime in immigrant communities because victims and witnesses refuse to report crime to the police to avoid immigration status interviews, turning immigrants into targets of crime.”
Biden throughout his presidential campaign vocalized support for ending the 287(g) program, though he has not yet taken specific policy actions toward addressing it since taking office.
The coalition also argued that ICE detainers, or requests for local jails to hold specific individuals for an additional 48 hours past their jail release date, “allow ICE agents more time to take the person into federal custody to deport them.”
“These place local law enforcement in a compromised position,” the group wrote. “Because detainers request that deputies hold individuals beyond their release date without a signed judicial warrant, deputies are left vulnerable to costly damages lawsuits for constitutional violations.”
Additionally, the coalition added that ICE detainers “undermine community trust and cooperation, because some people will not report crime if low-level arrests are a pipeline to deportation.”
In a statement shared with The Hill, retired Lt. Diane Goldstein, executive director for LEAP, said, “If people don’t feel safe talking to the police or reporting crimes because they’re afraid of being deported, then police can’t do our jobs.”
“Crimes go unsolved and innocent people get hurt,” she added. “Immigration policy must not stand in the way of our communities’ safety.”
Meanwhile, Naureen Shah, senior policy and advocacy counsel with the ACLU, said in a statement that it is “time for the Biden administration to end these harmful and counterproductive programs and build a more just immigration system that will strengthen our communities rather than target them.”
The letter comes ahead of Mayorkas’s scheduled testimony before the House Homeland Security Committee Wednesday morning, and as the Biden administration faces a rapid influx of migrants at the southern border, with a large portion being unaccompanied minors.
Two dozen House Democrats on Monday sent a letter to Mayorkas and Domestic Policy Council Director Susan Rice urging them to phase out ICE and U.S. Marshals Service contracts with state, local and county jails and prisons, citing “systemic abuses,” like “medical neglect, long-term use of solitary confinement, sexual assault, and lack of access to legal counsel.”