inFocus: America, immigration and Section 287(g)

inFOCUS

(WDVM) — America is home to more than 328 million, and beneath the symbolic colors of red, white and blue lies a promise: it’s the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Every day, thousands pass in and out of the nation’s borders. Some in hopes of asylum from danger, often in hopes of a better future. Regardless of the reason, the federal government asks is that it’s done legally.

Immigration policy is one of the most talked-about and controversial topics today. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, known widely as ICE, has numerous programs in place to keep the border secure.

“The one thing about ICE is we’re the one federal law enforcement agency that can literally reduce crime or prevent crime from happening, and the 287(g) program is a perfect example of that,” said Francisco Madrigal, Baltimore Field Office Director.

Section 287(g) of the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act authorizes the Department of Homeland Security to deputize select state and local law enforcement officers to enforce federal immigration law.

“It allows [ICE] to identify individuals who’ve already been arrested for crimes and are already incarcerated in jails or prisons, and identify individuals who may be removable from the United States because of violations of immigration laws,” said Madrigal.

There are currently 3, 287 (g) programs in the state of Maryland. There’s a partnership between the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office, and Harford and Cecil counties. Madrigal says the program is key to keeping the borders and citizens safe.

Not everyone feels the 287(g) program is what’s best for the immigrant community.

“I think the problem is when the local government gets involved, it seeds distrust between immigrants and the community,” said Delegate Vaughn Stewart.

Delegate Vaughn Stewart, who represents the 19th district in Maryland says, the country’s experience with police brutality and an unjust carceral system has created an “us versus them” mentality.

“They create this barrier between law enforcement and the immigrant community, where they feel terrified, they never know who they can and can’t talk to,” said Stewart. “Everyone in a uniform becomes suspect to them and that paralyzes them. “

In an attempt to help fix the system, Delegate Stewart is currently working on a bill called the Dignity Not Detention Act, which will work to phase out ice detention centers in the state of Maryland.

“ICE’s depravity isn’t something that Maryland should be complicit in, and no one, whether it’s a private prison company or a county should profit from human misery.”

Delegate Stewart says the Dignity Not Detention Act will be one of the first bills on the floor when the legislative session reconvenes in January.

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