The 287(g) Program in the South

By: Daniel Nardini

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - CommentaryWhen the 287(g) program between the federal and state governments was started, the original purpose of the program was to inform U.S. immigration of those undocumented who had criminal records so that they could be removed after they had served any prison time for crimes committed here. Sadly, the program has become a virulent racial profiling campaign against the undocumented and against Latinos in particular.

Nowhere has this vicious racial profiling been applied with such fanaticism as in the U.S. southeastern states. According to a lawsuit brought by the Southern Poverty Law Center, police departments in many southern states simply stopped, arrested and jailed people on the mere suspicion they might be undocumented. Many of them turn out to be legal permanent residents or U.S. citizens of Latino origin. Some were not even Latino at all!

Sadly, the 287(g) program has had a chilling affect on relations between police and a growing number of Latino communities in the southern states. In a couple of surveys, 73 percent of Latinos in Nashville, Tennessee, have stated they do not trust the police and will think twice about going to them about any crimes being committed in their community. Likewise many Latino victims of crimes will now hesitate to go to the police for fear they might be imprisoned and deported themselves.

This means that crimes do not go reported, and this makes it easier for criminals and gang-bangers to go after Latinos with impunity. The head of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, recently announced that the U.S. government will review all cases of those slated for deportation. However, this does not halt the 287(g) program, nor does it do anything about the abuses that have become part of the program itself.

More important, even if the 287(g) program were modified or scrapped, it would not change the pattern of prejudice and abuse against Latinos in the southern states. This is something that will have to be dealt with in the long term like the civil rights for African Americans had been for almost 100 years. However, scrapping the 287(g) program might be a good start in rebuilding trust between southern local and state police and the Latino and other ethnic and racial communities.

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