Feds Pull 287(g) Authority From Maricopa County Jails Because of Civil Rights Violations

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano yanked the 287(g) program from Maricopa County jails today because of a finding that Sheriff Joe Arpaio's office abused the rights of Latinos.


The program, in which deputies are cross-trained by federal authorities to identify illegal immigrants booked into jail, has been credited by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement bureau with helping to remove tens of thousands of immigrants from the country.

But Arpaio's "ingrained culture" of racial profiling and other civil rights abuses have screwed that up. ICE refused to renew 287(g) status for Arpaio's patrol deputies in 2009 following community complaints.

Clearly, this will have an impact on ICE's mission to identify and remove illegal immigrants from the jail. We left a message for ICE this morning, and we'll update this post later with the agency's comments.

Napolitano's short announcement is below:

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is troubled by the Department of Justice's (DOJ) findings of discriminatory policing practices within the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office (MCSO).

Discrimination undermines law enforcement and erodes the public trust. DHS will not be a party to such practices.

Accordingly, and effective immediately, DHS is terminating MCSO's 287(g) jail model agreement and is restricting the Maricopa County Sherriff's Office access to the Secure Communities program.

DHS will utilize federal resources for the purpose of identifying and detaining those individuals who meet U.S. Immigration Customs Enforcement's (ICE) immigration enforcement priorities. The Department will continue to enforce federal immigration laws in Maricopa County in smart, effective ways that focus our resources on criminal aliens, recent border crossers, repeat and egregious immigration law violators and employers who knowingly hire illegal labor.

Just like the street-level 287(g) program, the jail version also has led to civil rights abuses, says Victoria Lopez, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union in Arizona.

Cross-trained deputies had a lot of power to question illegal immigrants and begin the deportation process, Lopez says, and the office typically leaned toward getting the inmates out of the country rather than examining their immigration status. Sometimes the deputies would pressure the undocumented inmates into quickly signing forms for voluntary removal, which meant a quick ride to the border.

"Rather than check to see if they were eligible for release, they were just summarily deported," she says.

ICE will continue to identity and remove illegal immigrants from the jails, Lopez acknowledges. But she hopes the instances of "discrimination and unlawful behavior" will decrease.

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.
Contact: Ray Stern