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ACLU of Florida, FLIC and Coalition Call on Nelson, Rubio and Local Leaders to End Controversial Federal Immigration Program

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Federal 287(g) agreements in Collier County and Jacksonville have led to thousands of deportations for minor offenses, increased potential for racial profiling

MIAMI--(ENEWSPF)--December 7 - The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida today called on local and federal officials to end agreements between two local sheriff’s offices and federal immigration authorities because of damage to community trust in law enforcement, waste of local law enforcement resources, and the potential for increased racial profiling.

Currently, the Collier County Sheriff’s Office and the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office have agreements with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as part of the program, known as 287(g), which deputizes local police officers to perform immigration enforcement functions on behalf of the federal government. The ACLU sent letters signed on to by 40 state and local organizations, as well as a petition signed by nearly 2,000 Floridians, to decision-makers including Florida Senators Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson urging them not to allow the agreements to be renewed when they expire at the end of the year.

“The year-end deadlines for the renewal or the expiration of the 287(g) agreements have created a critical moment for leaders to decide whether we allow these injustices to continue, or whether we ensure that police attention is 100 percent focused on public safety and leave immigration enforcement to federal authorities where it belongs,” stated Howard Simon, Executive Director of the ACLU of Florida. “This is our opportunity for our leaders to create a state that treats all residents with dignity and respect.”

The 287(g) program allows state and local law enforcement agencies to enter into an agreement with ICE to enforce immigration laws within their jurisdictions, empowering local police to ask questions about the immigration status of individuals in their jurisdictions and detain them on behalf of ICE.  The program has produced countless complaints about abusive police practices, racial and ethnic profiling, and the deterioration of relationships between police and the communities they serve. 

57 law enforcement agencies in 21 states participate in the program. The Collier and Jacksonville agreements are the only 287(g) agreements in Florida. Collier County has participated in the program since 2007 and Jacksonville since 2008. Collier County’s participation in the 287(g) program has resulted in 4,316 deportations, one of the highest rates of all the jurisdictions participating in the program across the country.

Some law enforcement officers such as Collier County Sheriff Kevin Rambosk have touted the 287(g) program as an effective mechanism to remove criminals from neighborhoods and make the community safer. Jacksonville Sheriff John Rutherford similarly claims that participation in the 287(g) program is about taking criminals off the streets and not to prosecute individuals arrested for minor offenses.

However, the facts show that minor offenders are being targeted under the program. According to an in-depth study, in the first ten months of 2010, half of the detainers issued by 287(g) officers nationwide were placed on people apprehended for misdemeanors, traffic violations, and noncriminal immigration offenses.

“The large number of arrests for minor violations resulting in immigration consequences raises serious concerns about racial profiling in the implementation of the 287(g) program,” stated ACLU of Florida Staff Attorney Shalini Agarwal.

The ACLU of Florida along with the Florida Immigrant Coalition (FLIC) organized a coalition letter, signed onto by 40 state and local organizations, calling on Florida Senators Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio and Representatives Corrine Brown, Ander Crenshaw and Connie Mack IV to pressure the Department of Homeland Security to allow the 287(g) program agreements to expire altogether at the end of the year. The letter states that “[t]he most tangible effect of the program has been generating fear and a marked mistrust of police among both documented and undocumented individuals in the Latino community.”

Along with the letter, the ACLU of Florida also sent the names of nearly 2000 Floridians who had signed onto a petition urging their Senators to take action to end the program.

“Like the infamous Arizona anti-immigrant law, this delegation of federal immigration enforcement power to local police officers is ripe for abuse and has fueled a toxic environment of mutual mistrust between police and the immigrant community here in our state,” said Maria Rodriguez Executive Director of the Florida Immigrant Coalition. “We urge our leaders to put a stop to this program that has fed the dual injustices of racial profiling and targeting of the immigrant community here in Florida.”

The ACLU of Florida also sent a letter to Jacksonville Sheriff John Rutherford requesting a meeting with the sheriff to discuss why the city should not renew its 287(g) agreement, even if the federal program continues. The letter quotes former Miami Police Chief John Timoney, who has been a critic of local enforcement of federal immigration law: “All our citizens are directly affected, whether they are immigrants or not, by these policies. Immigrant victims and witnesses of violent crimes will not come forward if they fear their ‘local police’ will deport them. This affects everyone, as it hampers law enforcement efforts to thwart criminal activity in our neighborhoods.”

The ACLU of Florida will continue collecting names on its online petition and pressuring local and federal officials to end participation in the program until a final decision is reached by year’s end. The National ACLU also sent a letter to Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano today calling on her to end the program. ACLU state affiliates in other states with participating jurisdictions have similarly called on their elected officials and law enforcement leaders to end the program.

A copy of the coalition letter sent to the Senators and Representatives is available here: http://aclufl.org/pdfs/2012-12-07-ACLUFL-287gLetter.pdf

The ACLU of Florida’s online petition is available here: https://www.aclu.org/secure/FL-End-287g-anti-immigrant-agreements-petition

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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

Source: commondreams.org

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