PHOENIX, Arizona –The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office leads the nation when it comes to the number of local officers deputized by the federal government to enforce U.S. immigration laws. Now the program known as 287 (g) is about to change. But the impact of those changes, announced on Friday by Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, is unclear here and around the country. Napolitano announced an expansion of the 287 (g) program while making apprehension of criminal immigrants its priority.
The news brought mixed reaction in Arizona, where use of the program has raised concerns over alleged racial profiling and abuse by deputies under the command of Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Some applauded the changes to the federal-local agreement as a positive step that would ensure civil rights protections for undocumented immigrants. Others argued the program should end because it has caused local law enforcement go after undocumented immigrants with no criminal record, a deviation from its traditional role of fighting crime.
“If she wants to show good faith she should have suspended the agreement (in Maricopa),” said Salvador Reza, a member of PUENTE a local pro-immigrant movement that opposes 287 (g). “Unless they implement immigration reform that works, what is going on right now is going to keep on dividing our families,” he added. (more…)