Ineffective raids should be ICE'd

New York Daily News
By: Albor Ruiz
Published: February 25, 2009
Read the original article
The truth, though, came out in the study: Raids do little to enhance national security or solve the immigration crisis.

Now, a report released today, "Local Democracy on ICE," arrives at a similar conclusion. The report was conducted by Justice Strategies, a New York-based nonprofit research group that is "dedicated to more humane and cost-effective approaches to criminal justice and immigration law enforcement."

Aarti Shahani, the report's lead author, said, "We make the same underlying criticism [as the MPI study], but we are looking particularly at the fusion of federal immigration and local justice."

Shahani and her co-author, Judith Greene, who heads Justice Strategies, said the report is the result of an investigation of the so-called 287(g) program, which authorizes police, traffic cops and correction officers to arrest immigrants without cause.

Implemented under President George W. Bush, ICE justified 287(g) as a public safety program designed to get "illegal criminal aliens" off the streets. The new report reveals a different reality.

To begin with, Shahani said, there are 63 localities in the U.S.(the closest one to New York is in Hudson County, N.J.) where ICE has deputized officers, and 61% of the localities have crime rates that are lower than the national average.

"The statute is being applied to corn vendors and people with broken taillights," said Shahani who added that police already have the legal power they need to arrest anyone suspected of a crime.

It is precisely when they don't have reasonable suspicion of a crime that the 287(g) is applied, Shahani said.

It is very telling that ICE had given the largest and most powerful 287(g) contract to the infamous Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Ariz. This is a man well known for blatantly racist actions like ordering indiscriminate street "sweeps" of Latinos without any evidence of criminal activity.

Yet ICE deputized 160 of Arpaio's men, adding them to the 200 officers deputized nationwide. It was the first time local enforcement officers were given the power to conduct searches, make street arrests, conduct investigations and issue detainersin jail.

"Sheriff Joe" happily summarized the added value of the 287(g) program like this: "When we stop a car for probable cause, [now we can take] the other passengers, too."

To top it all, the 287(g) program is, as Shahani put it, "a huge drain of tax dollars." It doesn't provide funds for implementation, and shifts massive immigrant detention costs to local governments, straining already crowded jails.

Despite its grandiose crimefighter pretensions, the 287(g) program's main target has been day laborers and traffic violators. These are the "criminal illegal aliens" routinely arrested by deputized officers without probable cause.

"The program is under scrutiny, and ICE needs to be held responsible for its failure to supervise and direct all local partners that has led to rampant abuse," Shahani said. "There is a real opportunity for it to be reined in or terminated."

The sooner the better.