Janet Napolitano Blasted as "Law and Order Extremist" by 287(g) Expert Aarti Shahani

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Aarti Shahani talks 287(g) on GRITtv

This video from Laura Flanders' GRITtv is a must-watch for anyone concerned about Homeland Security secretary Janet Napolitano's recent expansion of ICE's 287(g) program -- the program, which in Flanders' words, "turns traffic cops into deportation agents." The 10 minute clip features Aarti Shahani, co-author of the scathing February 2009 Justice Strategies' report "Local Democracy on ICE," which advised the Obama administration to terminate the fatally-flawed 287(g) program.

The Webcast is dated July 16, and it's clear from what Shahani had to say that she had yet to see the language of the new 287(g) agreements, which I blogged about on Friday. Nevertheless, Shahani's analysis of Napolitano's initial announcement is spot-on. She points out that despite ICE being known within the federal government as a "highly incompetent agency," and despite the well-documented abuses of the 287(g) program, Napolitano has chosen to save and expand it. Why? Shahani states that the 287(g) expansion "gets down to who Janet Napolitano is," an immigration hawk and a "law and order extremist."

Shahani observes that the DHS announcement was made just days before Sonia Sotomayor's nomination hearings began. As a result, the Latino media has been focused on celebrating and defending Sotomayor, rather than on the new 287(g) agreements. It's now obvious with the release of the boilerplate language for the new, standardized Memorandum of Agreement that DHS' spin on these new rules as stricter and less subject to abuse was flatly disingenuous.

In fact, if DHS were serious about reforming the 287(g) program, the first thing they'd do is cut loose obvious racial profilers like Joe Arpaio and other sheriffs running rampant over the U.S. Constitution. But they have not done that, and they've given Arpaio enough wiggle room in this new agreement to continue in the same pernicious vein he's been mining since he first signed an MOA with ICE in February of 2007.

The larger issue, which Shahani also touches on, is the fact that we are granting police-state powers to local cops through 287(g), giving Officer Friendly the right to ask for your papers and arrest you if he doesn't like what he sees, even if what he sees is perfectly legitimate. (I'm thinking of consular cards and foreign drivers' licenses, for which Hispanics are often collared and charged with forgery, even if they are valid.)

Arpaio and his 287(g) gendarmes use federal law as a catchall to empower their illegal-hunting dragnets. State charges that are filed, but difficult to prove, can go away if the detainee signs off on voluntary removal from the U.S. When DHS issued its press release on the new rules, it made much of an expectation that all such state charges would be prosecuted -- an expectation that might inhibit localities suddenly responsible for picking up the tabs on arrestees previously hustled off to ICE. But the old MOA has basically the same language. And ICE has stated time and again that Arpaio's been operating within the guidelines of Maricopa County's current MOA.

So we're supposed to believe DHS and ICE muck-a-mucks have suddenly grown new incisors with which to clamp down on Arpaio when he inevitably calls their bluff? For two years, ICE has rubberstamped Arpaio's racial-profiling shenanigans. There's no reason to think the agency will do any differently now.

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