Tarrant County has a vast history of racism and discrimination, and this is definitely not a thing of the past.
287g, part of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, carries on this racist tradition by targeting immigrants without benefitting the community or making Tarrant County safer.
The program was voted into Tarrant County in June 2017 by the Tarrant County Commissioner’s Court. The program is used in several states and dates to shortly after 9/11.
287g allows Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to train police officers to act as immigration law enforcement inside a jail.
The program is voluntary and was brought to Tarrant County Sheriff Bill E. Waybourn in 2017.
While the program is supposed to only question those who commit Class B Misdemeanors or higher, it is not written that police officers have to stick to that. A study from the Migration Policy Institute found that only half of the people detained under 287g had committed misdemeanors and traffic offenses.
Last year the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported a study done by the Center for American Progress, which found that 287g suffers from a lack of transparency.
The program has a powerfully negative effect on the communities that have it.
Police officers working as ICE agents creates an even greater distrust between communities and law enforcement, which leads to people not reporting crimes. California’s Los Angeles County voted to end 287g in 2015, according to KABC News in Los Angeles, because immigrants were not reporting crimes in fear of deportation.
The program also takes away time from police officers who could be investigating real crimes instead of making them act as immigration enforcement, which is a federal responsibility.
Even with the short amount of training officers receive to act as ICE agents, they are not properly trained in federal law. There is a lot of room for officers to profile people and there is nothing stopping them from discriminating against people of color.
The program is also infringing on due process of those arrested. Juana Guzman, a community outreach organizer from Raices, a non-profit agency that provides legal services for immigrants in Texas, has seen cases where inmates will be taken into jail and when their families pay the criminal bond, they are sent to ICE detention. Since they are in detention, they are unable to make their court date and a warrant is made for their arrest.
On top of that, Guzman said, immigrants don’t even have to be convicted of a crime to be sent to ICE detention. Even if they are innocent, they don’t always get a chance to prove it before they are transferred.
Not only is this program hurting the community, but it is costing the county $373,382.00 a month as of January 2019, according to the Immigration Detainer Report released by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards.
That money could go a long way in Fort Worth, from fixing streets or paving sidewalks to giving back to the officers who are actually doing their jobs.
Harris County had 287g until it was removed by Sheriff Ed Gonzalez in 2017, according to the Houston Press. The article also mentioned that the program did nothing to help ICE and did not change the monthly number of detainees, but it did take away manpower from the Harris County Sheriff’s Office.
Clearly, this program only invokes fear and that is why it was put in place. 287g will be voted on again in June and campaigns to end the program have already begun.
I am calling on the county commissioners in Tarrant County, which include Roy C. Brooks, Devan Allen, B. Gary Fickes and J.D. Johnson and Glen Whitley, the judge of the Tarrant County Commissioner’s court, to vote 287g out of Tarrant County in June.
Immigration should be handled on the federal level and not be the responsibility of local police officers.
Citizens of Fort Worth need to be educating others on this program and its harmful effects and find way to get involved with shutting it down. The ICE Out of Tarrant County Campaign, which I am part of, kicked off last month and to join email email@example.com.
Keep Tarrant County safe and end this program.