ACLU-TN Slams 287(g) in Davidson County (And Beyond)



According to a report released today by the ACLU of Tennessee titled Consequences & Costs: Lessons Learned from Davidson County, Tennessee’s Jail Model 287(g) Program [PDF], the Davidson County Sheriff's Office's implementation of the federal 287(g) program encouraged racial profiling and spread fear among Nashville's immigrant Latino community, in addition to wasting resources on detaining primarily minor traffic offenders — a common refrain from activists and other critics of the controversial program since its inception.

Although Sheriff Daron Hall effectively ended the widely unpopular immigrant detention and deportation program in October under the pretense that it was a victim of its own success, the ACLU-TN report finds that its harmful legacy continues to reverberate in Nashville and beyond.

"This program has been sold as an effective mechanism to deport dangerous criminals and make Nashville safer," the report's author, Lindsay Kee, said in a prepared statement. "Yet, our data indicates that of the nearly 10,000 individuals deported under 287(g), most had been arrested for minor violations. When you look at arrests of foreign-born people during 287(g)’s implementation, the percentage of arrests for the most dangerous crimes actually decreased.”

In the wake of the report, ACLU-TN urged the sheriffs of Rutherford and Knox Counties to rescind their pending applications to the program, and joined with its parent organization and 161 other organizations in writing a letter [PDF] to the Department of Homeland Security to terminate the program nationwide.

Some key findings from the report:

While the 287(g) program was developed with the stated goal of responding to “immigration violators who pose a threat to national security or public safety,”3 the vast majority of the time, deportations through Davidson County’s 287(g) program were triggered by minor, often traffic-related offenses.

In 2012, misdemeanors accounted for nearly 79 percent of arrests of foreign-born people4 and for those ultimately put into removal proceedings, a staggering 67 percent of their arrests were for Level 2 offenses, which was the level that included traffic violations in the data analyzed. Simultaneously, after implementation of 287(g), among the foreign-born population, arrests for the most severe Level 1 offenses actually decreased 21 percent, moving the program far from its stated goal of targeting threats to public safety.

Davidson County’s 287(g) program encouraged racial profiling and disparate treatment from stop to detention, based on characteristics such as appearance, ethnicity or language skills. Though under a jail model 287(g) agreement, the agency with immigration authority is not the same agency responsible for arresting people on the street, evidence from Davidson County illustrates how the program’s presence impacted the perceptions and actions of others involved in the criminal justice system, from police on patrol to other public officials, whose statements regarding the influence of language and immigration status on their decisions are included in the report.

In addition, data shows that implementation of the 287(g) program in Davidson County corresponds with foreign-born people being arrested at an increasing rate for the single charge of “No Driver’s License,” which was not only the most common gateway charge for deportation in Davidson County, but also something that cannot be determined until after the individual is pulled over. If no other charge is brought, then the reason for pulling that person over is questionable at best and quite possibly a case of racial profiling. Of single charge arrests, the percentage that were for “No Driver’s License” increased 9.4 percent for the foreign-born after implementation of 287(g). The percentage of single-charge arrests for “No Driver’s License” that led to removal increased from 18 percent of arrests before implementation of 287(g) to 43 percent after, an increase of 136 percent.

The 287(g) program led to immigrants living in fear and distrust of law enforcement. Numerous examples in the report illustrate how, by introducing the threat of immigration enforcement into community policing, Davidson County’s 287(g) program deterred immigrants, including domestic violence survivors, from reporting crimes they experienced or witnessed, ultimately undermining public safety as a whole.

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