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Defunding 287(g) Can Not Come Soon Enough

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A federal judge in Arizona recently held that Sheriff Arpaio and his Deputies have engaged in racial profiling against Latinos in Maricopa County. The decision found that policies and practices of Arpaio and his office are discriminatory, violate the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments of the Constitution, and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The ruling which came as result of a lawsuit by the ACLU and other organizations vindicated not only immigrant communities in Maricopa County who have long endured Arpaio's reign of terror but also communities across the country including here in Georgia where programs leading to racial profiling such as 287(g) have been in effect for several years.

287(g) enlists local police as immigration officers and has been active in four Georgia counties - Cobb, Gwinnett, Whitfield, and Hall.

The program has had devastating consequences, including diminished community trust in the police, as documented by the ACLU of Georgia in our reports on Cobb and Gwinnett.

287(g) has also encouraged racial profiling and targeting of communities of color in the four 287(g) counties. This was recently experienced by Jon-Christopher Sowells who was stopped and subsequently arrested by Snellville police in Gwinnett during a test drive of a BMW for no apparent reason. "They're treating me like I'm a criminal and I hadn't done anything," he told the news media.

The racial profiling rampant in Maricopa County was in part due to 287(g). In fact, as the Arizona decision showed, ICE had been teaching Arpaoi's deputies during 287(g) trainings that they could use race as a factor in forming a reasonable suspicion about unlawful presence.

The government's own watchdog units have also faulted 287(g). The US Government Accountability Office issued a 2009 report describing the mismanagement, lack of supervision, and poor oversight of 287(g). The Office of the Inspector General also issued a report in 2010 highlighting the targeting of community members who have not committed any crimes, lack of state and local supervision, and insufficient training.

It is high time to end 287(g).

Instead, the current version of the 2014 budget as pending before the House of Representatives will provide an additional $44 million dollars above the White House's requested amount for 287(g).

Additionally, the budget will cut $3.4 million dollars from the White House request for the Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) which oversees the Department of Homeland Security operations to ensure their alignment with constitutional rights and the prevention of racial profiling.

Human rights advocates across the country and in Georgia are calling upon their Congressional representatives today to vote in favor of an amendment proposed by Rep. Polis (D-CO) that would right grave wrongs in the current House appropriations bill by defunding 287(g) and restoring the funding to CRCL.

The call from advocates to defund the program as the Polis amendment proposes is in line with previous Congressional positions including the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, Black Caucus, Hispanic Caucus, and Progressive Caucus call upon Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to "finally end the ill-conceived, discriminatory 287(g) program."

At a time that Congress is seeking immigration reform, the House should be budgeting to protect immigrants' human rights, not endanger all of our public safety by throwing money at a program that is universally recognized as a failure.

The budget amendment to cut funds to 287(g) and reallocate them to civil rights oversight would help repair Georgia's racial profiling history. The House must pass it.