Dozens of Small, White Towns Are Clamoring to Help ICE Round Up Undocumented Immigrants

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Dozens of police departments—largely in smaller communities with minimal immigrant populations—are clamoring to step up and help the Trump administration’s efforts to arrest and deport undocumented residents in return for a chance to make a buck.


In the first year of Donald Trump’s presidency alone, a program to deputize local authorities with some of the powers of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement officials has doubled in size. 29 departments have joined the program—known as 287(g)—according to ICE figures reported Monday by Reuters. Documents obtained in a records request by the news agency found “scores” of additional agencies were in touch with ICE about the program, and 38 of those confirmed to Reuters that they either have applied to join or are interested.

Departments that participate in 287(g) are trained by ICE to use federal records to vet people they’ve arrested to see if they are undocumented. If they find an undocumented person, they then turn them over to federal agents. The program was scaled back during Barack Obama’s presidency over concerns that it led to racial profiling of Latinx people. (The ACLU said it had “led to illegal racial profiling and civil rights abuses while diverting scarce resources from traditional local law enforcement functions and distorting immigration enforcement priorities.”)

Of the agencies who have already signed agreements with ICE or said they’re interested in doing so, three quarters are in counties that voted for Trump in the presidential election, Reuters reported. The size and composition of these communities also seems to be a strong predictive factor in whether they’re interested in sewing fear among their immigrant neighbors. Most of those enrolled or seeking to join the program have fewer than 100,000 residents with smaller immigrant communities than cities that have declared themselves sanctuaries for undocumented people, which tend to be larger and have more diverse populations.

Like most efforts to round up undocumented people in great numbers to ready them for deportation, 287(g) program does more harm than good. According to Reuters, a 2011 study of seven jurisdictions by the Migration Policy Institute found that in the first 10 months of 2010, half of the immigrants flagged to federal immigration officials had only committed misdemeanor crimes, including immigration violations that are classified as civil rather than criminal.

The Trump administration has been making other aggressive efforts to deputize local law enforcement against immigrant populations. Last week, the Justice Department announced that it had consciously favored departments that cooperated with federal immigration officials in dispersing nearly $100 million in grant money.

Put simply: this shit sucks.

Managing Editor, Splinter