Racial Profiling Fuels Bid to Halt Immigration Enforcement Pacts

  • ACLU cites Justice Department guidance against stereotyping
  • Groups want Biden to end agreements with local law enforcement

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Civil liberties and immigrants’ rights groups are calling on the Biden administration to end immigration enforcement agreements with local officials in light of recent racial profiling guidance from the Justice Department.

The American Civil Liberties Union and more than 100 other groups wrote to the Department of Homeland Security on Wednesday, urging it to end its 287(g) program, which allows US Immigration and Customs Enforcement to enter into agreements with local sheriffs and police departments, allowing them to conduct civil immigration enforcement.

The letter, first obtained by Bloomberg Government, highlights the competing pressures on President Joe Biden on immigration policies. The administration has beefed up many immigration enforcement efforts, including deportations, amid US-Mexico border challenges and GOP criticism in recent months.

Advocacy groups have long complained that the 287(g) program encourages local officials to racially profile and target people in their districts. The ACLU now says the program stands in violation of May 25 Justice Department guidance that bars “the use of generalized assumptions or stereotypes about individuals or groups bearing these characteristics as a basis for law enforcement decision-making.”

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas affirmed in May that the Justice Department policy applies to DHS, and directed the Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties to update the department’s nondiscrimination policies.

“The Department’s implementation must include the elimination of 287(g) agreements, which undermine trust, decrease legitimacy, and reduce law enforcement efficacy across the country,” the groups told Mayorkas, arguing that the program “has encouraged exactly the illicit forms of racial profiling and stereotyping that the DOJ guidance seeks to eliminate.”

DHS didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday afternoon.

ACLU Senior Legislative Counsel Naureen Shah said she understood the political considerations possibly weighing on the department: that the secretary doesn’t want to be seen as anti-law enforcement.

She argued, however, that the 287(g) program actually makes police work harder in many cases by leaving many immigrant communities leery of sharing any information with law enforcement. Shah called on DHS to at least terminate agreements with local law enforcement agencies that have a history of discrimination.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ellen M. Gilmer in Washington at egilmer@bloombergindustry.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Robin Meszoly at rmeszoly@bgov.com; Anna Yukhananov at ayukhananov@bloombergindustry.com

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