Feathered Bastard

DHS Doublecross: ACLU Denounces 287(g) Changes as "Cosmetic"

Has DHS given the pro-immigration crowd the ol' pitch and switch? Have lefties been snowed by ICE? It was with great fanfare last week that Janet Napolitano's Department of Homeland Security announced brand, spanking new rules governing the agreements that Immigration and Customs Enforcement has with local law enforcement agencies, such as the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office. These MOAs under the 287(g) program allow ICE-trained cops to enforce immigration law. DHS's announcement declared that they had signed 11 new law enforcement agencies, or LEAs, under the new language. All other participating LEAs would have to re-sign.

DHS even issued so-called "side-by-side" comparisons between the new MOAs and the old MOAs, giving the impression of significant improvements over the old MOA, and holding out the unstated possibility that the new MOA might rein in our racial-profiling law man, Sheriff Joe, who has the largest 287(g) force in the nation with a whopping 160 officers. But curiously, DHS sat on the new agreements themselves until this week, releasing them after the ACLU forced the issue with a FOIA request. 

Now that DHS has coughed up the new, standardized 287(g) agreements the disappointment has set in for the immigrant rights crowd. The boilerplate for the new MOAs, which you can compare with the current MOA governing Arpaio's 287(g) force at the ACLU's Web site, lacks teeth and specifics where it needs them in spades. Indeed, going strictly by the language offered, the new MOAs seem worse in some respects. It's almost like when you buy a box of laundry detergent that advertises itself as "new and improved," when in fact the company has put less soap in the box.

In a press release issued today -- which the ACLU put out with a comparison showing what ICE has claimed, and then what the reality of the situation is -- the ACLU calls the changes "cosmetic." I have to say that after laying both old and new docs out and reading them against each other, the new MOA leaves a lot wanting. See, Arpaio and his goons are loophole-masters. And unless ICE is extraordinarily vigilant in regards to oversight -- which they have not been when it comes to the MCSO for the last two years -- Arpaio will roll right over any speed bumps set up to impede his nefarious agenda.

"In a comparison of the new standardized MOA to the MOA signed with Maricopa County, Arizona in February 2007," reads the release, "the ACLU found that the new MOA would do little or nothing to correct the egregious racial profiling and civil rights abuses that have occurred there, and in some respects the new MOA is actually worse than the original from the Bush administration."

The ACLU points out that the new agreement expands the powers of 287(g) officers, lessens the amount of experience a 287(g)-man (or woman) should have (from two years law enforcement experience to one), and maintains vague requirements for data collection.

One particularly annoying point: When the new MOA was announced, the DHS statement made a big deal of saying the following:

"To address concerns that individuals may be arrested for minor offenses as a guise to initiate removal proceedings, the new agreement explains that participating local law enforcement agencies are required to pursue all criminal charges that originally caused the offender to be taken into custody."

However, the current MOA for Maricopa County states that, "The LEA is expected to pursue to completion prosecution of the state and local charges that caused the individual to be taken into custody."

What does the new MOA state?

"The AGENCY is expected to pursue to completion all criminal charges that caused the alien to be taken into custody and over which the AGENCY has jurisdiction."

Do you see some bloody huge difference? I certainly don't. So just what is it that keeps the MCSO from arresting immigrants "for minor offenses as a guise to initiate removal proceedings"? 

There is new language in the agreement about the "purpose" of the "collaboration" between locals and feds; this being to "enhance the safety and security of communities by focusing resources" on "criminal aliens who pose a threat to public safety or a danger to the community." And there is a three-tiered prioritization, with violent offenders at the top. But will the oversight or the political will be there to pull back Arpaio from collaring corn vendors?

The new MOA speaks of ICE in a supervisory capacity, but, then, so does the old MOA, which plainly states that "participating LEA personnel will be supervised and directed by ICE." Up until this point, ICE has said that Arpaio was not in violation of the MOA. So why should we believe that ICE will this time exert its influence over Arpaio and keep him from doing indiscriminate sweeps and violating the civil rights of Hispanics?

Oh, right, Barack Obama. Sorry, but, anyone who has made Janet Napolitano the head of DHS and made her the point person for immigration reform in this country does not get a free pass. Quite the contrary. Bottom line: the 287(g) program should end. We don't need a national police force full of supercops in this country asking for everyone's papers.

Yet, if the administration really wants to convince the pro-immigration crowd that it's serious about reforming the 287(g) program, it needs to cut loose its list of bad actors, starting with-- who else? -- Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons