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500 groups urge Obama to halt immigration police program

A letter to the president says local enforcement of federal immigration laws has led to racial profiling and civil rights violations.

August 31, 2009|Anna Gorman

A coalition of advocacy groups sent a letter to President Obama last week demanding that the administration end a program that allows local police to enforce federal immigration law.

The program, known as 287(g), deputizes police to turn over suspects or criminals to immigration authorities for possible deportation.

Immigrant rights groups said the program has led to civil rights violations and racial profiling.

"Racial profiling and other civil rights abuses by the local law enforcement agencies that have sought out 287(g) powers have compromised public safety, while doing nothing to solve the immigration crisis," the letter states. "The program has worked counter to community policing goals by eroding the trust and cooperation of immigrant communities and diverted already reduced law enforcement resources from their core mission."

The letter was sent by the National Immigration Law Center and includes signatures by more than 500 local and national groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Day Laborer Organizing Network.

Organizations have planned vigils, marches and news conferences this week to raise awareness about their criticisms.

In July, the Department of Homeland Security announced an expansion of 287(g) and some changes, including a new agreement that all participating agencies must sign. The agreement requires that police agencies focus their efforts on criminals who pose a threat to public safety, with less emphasis on those who commit minor crimes.

Since the announcement, administration officials have repeatedly defended 287(g), saying the cooperation between local and federal law enforcement improves public safety by resulting in the detention and deportation of illegal immigrants with criminal records. They have said the changes make the program more uniform and fair.

"There are many instances in which close coordination and cooperation between federal and state law enforcement agencies to address serious immigration enforcement issues makes a ton of sense," Homeland Security Assistant Secretary John Morton said recently. "That is why we are making important changes to the 287(g) program to recognize and address some of the concerns."

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anna.gorman@latimes.com

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