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Letter to Secretary Napolitano

Last night the Congressional Hispanic, Black, Asian American and Progressive Caucuses sent a letter authored by Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard to the Department of Homeland Security urging Secretary Janet Napolitano to end the deeply flawed 287(g) program. Collectively representing more than 70 members of Congress, the caucuses were united in declaring that when local police are deputized to enforce our immigration laws, "fewer witnesses come forward and more victims choose to suffer in silence." Unfortunately, the Department may be on the verge of authorizing as many as seven new 287(g) agreements that would give local law enforcement agencies this power.

"The 287(g) program continues to encourage racial profiling and undermine confidence in law enforcement in minority and immigrant communities," said Rep. Roybal-Allard. "By empowering local cops to serve as immigration agents, this misguided effort risks making all of us less safe. Let's allow the police who patrol our streets to focus on catching criminals and leave immigration enforcement to the federal government."

Continued Rep. Roybal-Allard, "In the coming weeks, Secretary Napolitano and the Administration will decide the future of the 287(g) program. Finally ending the program would send a clear message that President Obama is serious about fixing our broken immigration system. I am deeply troubled by the news that DHS is considering not only continuing its existing agreements with state and local police departments but actually expanding the program to seven new jurisdictions. We should be laying the groundwork for comprehensive immigration reform, not doubling down on the failed enforcement policies of the past."

DHS has indicated that the 287(g) Program Advisory Board will meet on December 17th to review applications to participate in the 287(g) program submitted by seven jurisdictions in Massachusetts, Tennessee, South Carolina, Virginia and Oklahoma.

See the text of the letter sent by the Hispanic, Black, Asian American and Progressive Caucuses below:

The Honorable Janet Napolitano
The Department of Homeland Security
310 7th Street, SW
Washington, DC 20528-0150

Dear Secretary Napolitano:

Under your leadership, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has adopted a more humane and effective approach to immigration enforcement, focusing more of its limited resources on serious criminals and shielding thousands of deserving young people from the threat of deportation. We encourage you to build on these important steps by heeding the advice of community groups, senior law enforcement officials, faith leaders and civil rights advocates by finally ending the deeply flawed 287(g) program. As you know, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) recently extended its 287(g) agreements with local law enforcement agencies for 90 days. Instead of perpetuating a program which is wasting millions of tax dollars, promoting racial profiling and harming relations between police and local communities, we strongly urge you to terminate these agreements and reject all future 287(g) applications.

Given its serious and persistent management shortcomings, spending $51 million to continue the 287(g) program in the coming fiscal year would be exceptionally irresponsible. In a scathing September 2010 report, the DHS Office of Inspector General (DHS IG) found that "there is no assurance that funds allocated to the 287(g) program were used as intended." Since that time, ICE has failed to establish the "steering committees with external stakeholders" in every jurisdiction that the DHS IG recommended to improve management and oversight of the program. The agency has also declined to provide data to the public on enforcement actions under 287(g) despite doing so for the Secure Communities program.

More troublingly, the 287(g) program continues to undermine the trust of immigrant and minority communities in the officers who patrol their streets and protect their homes and businesses. As law enforcement leaders from across the country have repeatedly stated, when local police are deputized to enforce our immigration laws, fewer witnesses come forward and more victims choose to suffer in silence. The program therefore represents a serious threat to public safety, compromising the security and well-being of immigrants and U.S. citizens alike. As former Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton wrote in explaining why his department would not participate in the 287(g) program, "My officers can't prevent or solve crimes if victims or witnesses are unwilling to talk to us because of the fear of being deported…Criminals are the biggest benef[iciaries] when immigrants fear the police."

The federal government successfully argued in its litigation against Arizona's harsh anti-immigrant law, SB 1070, that immigration enforcement is essentially a federal matter. Contrary to this bedrock principle, the 287(g) program uniquely empowers state and local police to act as immigration agents. Terminating all existing 287(g) agreements would allow officers in these jurisdictions to focus on protecting the public and leave the complex task of immigration enforcement to your department and other federal authorities where it belongs.

For all of these reasons and because it would represent another critical step in the direction of the goal we share with President Obama--building an immigration system that reflects "our heritage and our values"--we respectfully request that you finally end the ill-conceived, discriminatory 287(g) program.


Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard

Congressman Charles A. Gonzales, Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus

Congressman Luis V. Gutierrez, Chair of the CHC Immigration Task Force

Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus

Congressman Raul M. Grijalva, Co-Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus

Congressman Keith Ellison, Co-Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus

Congressman Jared Polis, Chair of the CPC Equal Protection Task Force

Congresswoman Judy Chu, Chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American

Congressman Michael M. Honda, Chair of the CAPAC Immigration Task Force

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