Sheriffs Betray Their Communities When They End 287(g) Agreements


May 26, 2021

By Dale Wilcox

Even when immigration isn’t in the news at the moment, the Biden administration and its acolytes continue to wage their scorched-earth campaign against our borders and national security. From the porous border to sanctuary laws to foreign worker visas, it is difficult to track all the ways we as a nation are under siege. There is another front in this battle, and if it isn’t already in your community, it may be on the way.

The 287(g) program, as it is commonly known, facilitates greater collaboration between Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and local law enforcement agencies. Participating agencies will deputize some of their officers to perform the duties of immigration agents — such as inquiring about immigration status and checking the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) database. The result is that illegal aliens in local custody who are wanted by ICE are more quickly identified, and the transfer of custody is better streamlined.

Because it has been an effective way to keep criminal aliens out of American communities, the anti-borders left naturally wants to terminate the program. Spurred on by the Biden administration’s all-out assault on our immigration laws, Democrats in Congress have been calling for the 287(g) program nationwide to be defunded. In short, they believe higher crime in American cities is acceptable collateral damage in their quest to import what they hope will be a permanent voting majority in their favor.

The reasons given to end the 287(g) program are a familiar refrain. In a letter from more than two dozen Democrats to House appropriation leaders, they claim the program causes immigrant communities to distrust law enforcement and discourages illegal aliens from calling police or reporting on crimes.

As is often the case, these claims do not stand up to the light of scrutiny. If immigrant communities distrust law enforcement, it is much more because of anti-borders politicians who blatantly lie to their immigrant communities and stoke fear that cooperation with law enforcement will lead to their deportation. The fear they sow is not based in fact. The federal government specifically protects foreign nationals who report crimes. The U-visa safeguards victims of certain crimes and those who are helpful to law enforcement in the investigation of criminal activity.

These politicians avoid the obvious question about the 287(g) program: does it make communities safer? The evidence there is substantial. My organization, the Immigration Reform Law Institute, recently conducted an investigation into two North Carolina counties whose sheriffs were elected on a platform that included ending 287(g) agreements in late 2018.

We found that one of the counties, Mecklenburg, saw a rise in every violent crime category—including murder, rape robbery, aggravated assault—from 2018 to 2019. The 287(g) program was nixed in December 2018, making 2018-2019 a good comparison of the program for both counties. While in the other county there was not an increase in every violent crime category, Wake County also saw a rise in overall violent crime between 2018 to 2019.

We also asked the Sheriff’s Offices in both Mecklenburg County and Wake County to provide the number of aliens transferred into ICE custody during the life of their 287(g) programs and beyond, broken down by year. The findings confirm that the end of 287(g) led to a drop in ICE transfers. The reduction in custody transfers allows these aliens to re-enter the community and the opportunity to commit additional crimes. 

It doesn’t require a doctorate in criminology to see what is going on here. Removing criminal offenders from a community invariably leads to a safer community. Conversely, the toxic combination of anti-borders policies and a soft-on-crime philosophy leads to communities where narco-gang violence, rape and assault are commonplace. Which community would you rather live in?

Elections for sheriff rarely get the kind of attention reserved for mayors and county council members, but our investigation shows that it is a critical position. If you are concerned about this problem in your community, research your local sheriff and his or her position on 287(g) agreements. Hold them to account and demand policies that result in safer communities. Become a citizen activist now, or don’t complain later when activists from faraway places are making decisions about the safety of your community.  

Dale L. Wilcox is executive director and general counsel at the Immigration Reform Law Institute, a public interest law firm working to defend the rights and interests of the American people from the negative effects of mass migration.

Also published at: Dale Wilcox, The sheriffs who betray their communities for the sake of illegal aliens, American Thinker, May 26, 2021.

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