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Help Reform Immigration Laws

Legislative Fact Sheet

(January 1, 2013)

The Issue

Immigration reform is long overdue and needs to be implemented in a way that is fair, upholds the constitutional values of due process and equality, and ensures human rights.

In the absence of comprehensive federal immigration reform, many states have adopted punitive enforcement of immigration laws that relies on racial and religious profiling.

Current federal immigration laws and practices have also led to racial profiling, indefinite detention, and mistaken deportation of immigrants and American citizens alike.

These laws may endanger public safety by redirecting the limited resources of our nation's immigration law enforcement agencies (LEAs) into programs that: 1) target immigrants without a criminal records, and, 2) inadequately train state and local LEAs required to enforce these laws.

Not only are these laws ineffective, they can lead to deep distrust between immigrant and resident communities and a lack of reporting to law enforcement agencies.

These programs are unaffordable in a time of financial crisis – Congress is expected to appropriate over $5 billion to DHS's Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in 2013, including $2.8 billion for immigration detention and removal operations.

What is being asked of members of Congress?

Support comprehensive immigration reform policies that establish a commonsense approach for LEAs, respect civil and human rights, and promote greater public safety. Enact reforms that:

  • Immediately stop the implementation the ICE led Secure Communities program and Criminal Alien Program unless and until meaningful civil right and civil liberties safeguards are put in place to ensure that racial profiling and other human rights violations are not occurring.
  • To prevent such violations, collect data on the perceived race or ethnicity of the people arrested, the charges that are lodged and the ultimate disposition of cases.
  • Completely phase out existing 287(g) agreements and initiate no new agreements, do away with section 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act.

Rescind the DOJ's Office of Legal Counsel's 2002 "inherent authority" memo and issue a new memo clarifying that state and local LEAs may not enforce immigration laws.

Establish clear accountability and oversight systems that are transparent and responsive to civilian complaints, maintaining a zero tolerance policy that holds accountable all federal immigration LEAs who commit civil and human rights violations.

Direct immigration LEA resources on deporting "high priority" convicted drug traffickers, gang members and violent criminals, not "low priority" law-abiding immigrants seeking citizenship.

Develop comprehensive workplace immigration enforcement laws that can be implemented in a manner that improves rather than undermines the wages and working condition of U.S. and immigration workers while respecting the due process rights of workers.

Reasons to support reform of the Secure Communities program

  • Background: The Secure Communities program is a "voluntary" state-federal deportation program that enhances information-sharing between ICE, the FBI and state and local LEAs in 24 states. It is expected to be deployed nationwide in 2013. While the program is intended to identify, prioritize, and remove only the most serious criminal offenders, in practice it has led to deportation based on immigration violations, racial profiling, and state disengagement from the program.
  • Wholesale targeting of immigrant communities: According to ICE, 27 percent of those detained nationwide under the program were "non-criminals," and in the state of Illinois 78 percent of those detained were people who had committed only "misdemeanors or had no criminal record."
  • Misuse of resources: State and local LEAs are required to focus on undocumented immigrants, diminishing overall law enforcement efforts to prevent other serious types of crimes. Frequently, those who report crime or are victims of crime are deported because of their immigration status.
  • Not really a voluntary program: ICE has announced that it will "proceed with Secure Communities without the agreement of state and local jurisdictions" after having rescinded its prior agreements with participating states and jurisdictions. Massachusetts, Illinois and New York have already attempted to withdraw from the program.

Reasons to phase out section 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act

  • Background: Section 287(g) authorizes ICE to enter into agreements with state and local LEAs, deputizing officers to act as immigration officers in addition to their regular activities. However, according the DHS Office of Inspector General's March 2010 report on the performance of 287(g) agreements, state and local LEAs do not receive adequate training, have engaged in racial profiling and potentially committed civil rights abuses, and like with Secure Communities, have targeted immigrants who have no prior arrests.
  • No accountability: According the March 2010 report, "With no specific target levels for arrest, detention, and removal priority levels, and with performance measures that do not account for all investigative work and criminal prosecutions, ICE cannot be assured that the 287(g) program is meeting its intended purpose, or that resources are being appropriately targeted toward aliens who pose the greatest risk to public safety and the community."
  • Inadequate training: According the March 2010 report, "287(g) training does not fully prepare [LEA] officers for immigration enforcement duties," and that training "curriculum provides limited coverage of three topics: civil rights law; the terms and limitations of [immigration enforcement agreements]; and public outreach and complaint procedures."
  • Unauthorized detention: According the March 2010 report, ICE "has detained aliens identified through the 287(g) program at three facilities that were not authorized by ICE, and therefore not subject to inspection." Many of these facilities are overcrowded and lack sufficient resources.
  • Wrongful detention: According to the American Civil Liberties Union and the Immigration & Human Rights Policy Clinic, "Wrongful immigration determination is yet another legal concern that arises from the implementation of 287(g) ... Because immigration law is complicated ... state and local officers often lack the necessary expertise notwithstanding the 287(g) training that they undergo. Consequently, American citizens and lawful permanent residents as well as undocumented immigrants who have legal claims to lawful status become vulnerable to wrongful detention and even wrongful deportation."
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