These local agreements between ICE and sheriffs continue to terrorize immigrant communities

These local agreements between ICE and sheriffs continue to terrorize immigrant communities
Image credit: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

Maira Oviedo-Granados, an asylum-seeker living in Knoxville, Tennessee, dialed 911 for help when a jealous and previously violent boyfriend tried to attack her on Nov. 7, 2020. She managed to lock herself and her three children in a bedroom as she told the operator through an interpreter that he was armed.

The operator asked if the boyfriend had struck her. "Interpreter on behalf of Oviedo-Granados: 'No, not the kids, but he has me,'" Knox News reports. She told the operator he hadn't hit her at that time because a friend was there. But once officers arrived, it was Oviedo-Granados who was eventually detained under a flawed, racist Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) program. She's now suing.

That program, 287(g), allows local law enforcement to act as mass deportation agents. ICE purports that the policy serves "tremendous benefit to public safety," when it actually does the exact opposite, harming people like Oviedo-Granados.

She was initially detained after her boyfriend, an Anglophone, claimed she hit him. WBIR reports a judge dismissed that charge after reading the 911 transcript. Knox News reports Oviedo-Granados would be "separated from her three children from November 2020 through early January, mostly inside a detention facility in Louisiana, causing severe trauma, according to the lawsuit." She should not have been targeted in the first place, with a pending asylum claim.

"For years, immigrant activists said 287(g) would make residents less safe because they'd be afraid to call 911," tweeted Knox News reporter Tyler Whetstone. But sheriffs "dismissed this fear." Knox News additionally reports that the sheriff's 287(g) agreement might have been unlawfully implemented, because these agreements first require local approval. "Here that would mean the Knox County Commission. The commission never approved it."

287(g) agreements across the country shouldn't exist period, having resulted in "widespread" racial profiling in addition to family separation, the American Immigration Council has said. The group's report said a Justice Department investigation "found that deputies of former Sheriff Joe Arpaio routinely conducted 'sweeps' in Latino neighborhoods, and that Latino drivers in certain parts of Maricopa County were up to nine times more likely to be stopped than non-Latino drivers. Following the investigation, the Obama administration terminated Maricopa County's 287(g) agreement."

The Immigrant Defense Project's ICE Out of Courts Coalition said in 2019 that it had found a nearly 80% surge in abusers weaponizing ICE against their victims, in yet another reason to end these agreements (and the agency itself). While President Joe Biden campaigned on ending 287(g) agreements implemented by the previous administration, "the promise remains unfulfilled," Immigration Impact said in June. Biden's nominee to officially lead ICE, Texas Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez, would the next month say that it would "not be [his] intent to end the policy," calling his own decision to terminate his agreement a "local decision."

Dozens of House Democrats have previously joined immigrant rights advocates in urging an end to the policies, saying they "turn local law enforcement agencies into a gateway to deportation." The Biden administration should listen. "People should not risk being jailed or criminalized for seeking help," the American Civil Liberties Union tweeted in response to Oviedo-Granados' story. "The 287(g) immigration programs are ineffective, outdated, and wrong. They must end immediately."

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