House Democrats are reportedly pushing the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to stop working with local and state police on US immigration. 60 Democrats have called for an end to the 287(g) program, which allows the DHS to enter into agreements with local and state police departments.
The group of Democrats demanded an end to the program following an announcement made by newly appointed DHS Secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas, that US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) would be issued with new guidelines on how to handle enforcement after four years of Donald Trump’s aggressive US immigration actions.
In a letter sent to Mayorkas, shared with Politico, Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.) and Mike Quigley (D-Ill.), wrote: “The current immigration enforcement regime depends on the time and resources of local law enforcement agencies—at the expense of public safety for all and in particular for immigrant communities”
The 287(g) program, which existed prior to Trump’s time in office but was expanded under his administration, allows the DHS to enter into agreements with local and state police who then do the work of ICE agents.
Lawmakers have also called on the Biden administration to scrap a program introduced during George W. Bush’s time as US President, which allowed federal agents to access fingerprints of individuals taken to jail by local and state law enforcement.
The Secure Communities program was ended by Barack Obama in 2014 but was reinstated by Trump by executive order in 2017.
The 60-strong group also urged the DHS to abolish the use of ICE detainers – requests issued for local enforcement agencies to get information or detain a person for up to 48 hours after they are supposed to be released, giving ICE extra time to potentially deport someone.
The group wrote: “We respectfully urge you to end these programs and practices—and launch a new era of a more just and welcoming US immigration enforcement system divorced from local law enforcement agencies.”
The letter sent to Mayorkas was backed by several progressive and immigrant advocacy groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the National Immigrant Justice Center, the Immigrant Legal Resource Center and United We Dream.
Senior advocacy and policy counsel for the ACLU, Naureen Shah, said: “The issue with local police working with ICE is the fear it creates in migrant families, making it less likely they’ll report crimes. It also means immigrant workers and their families are afraid to get tested, vaccinated, and treated for COVID-19 out of fear of local police.”
The Biden administration has not yet publicly disclosed how it plans to tackle the issue of the DHS and local and state police relationship. However, Mayorkas is expected to promote greater restraint from the agency when it comes to detaining people and deportations.
Biden had signed an executive order to pause deportations for 100 days. However, this measure has been temporarily blocked by a federal judge. Meanwhile, on the first day of Biden’s presidency, the DHS announced that it would start reviewing policies and procedures connected with US immigration enforcement.
In a memo issued by then acting DHS Secretary, David Pekoske, on January 20 he wrote: “The department’s temporary enforcement priorities on immigration are protecting national security, border security and public safety.”
No change overnight
Several immigrant advocacy groups acknowledged that the DHS could not be expected to change its practices overnight. However, the letter issued by the 60 Democrats is part of a larger push that progressives and immigrant advocacy groups will be making to lobby Biden on how his administration handles the work of ICE.
Meanwhile, Republicans continue to criticize Biden’s US immigration agenda. A group of 12 Senate Republicans recently urged the President to ‘reconsider his immigration policy’ following an increase in illegal immigrant crossings at US borders.
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