Arizona Sheriff Collared, Bad Policy Still at Large

| Wed Oct. 7, 2009 11:25 AM EDT

Infamous Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio—subject of scorn and New Yorker profiles, who flaunts his brutal treatment of undocumented immigrants in Maricopa county—may be smarting since his deputies were stripped of their power to arrest and detain suspected immigration offenders last week. But the bad policy he epitomized is far from gone.

In fact, the program is expanding, despite ample evidence that it undermines local police work. Known as 287(g), the program is meant to snag gang bangers, coyotes and narcotraficantes.  In practice, however, it grants local cops the authority to begin deportation proceedings over a speeding ticket, or to aid ICE in home raids, or to generally intimidate whole immigrant communities, documented or otherwise, into avoiding law enforcement altogether. Though the Obama administration has revised the program's most contentious aspects (participants will have until October 15th to sign off on watered-down privileges), the most basic problems remain. 

"We have seen, in late spring, the release of additional 287(g) agreements. [The administration] promised a review of those agreements, but in the process there has been an expansion to additional localities," said Gabriela Villareal, advocacy coordinator for the New York Immigration Coalition. "Any enforcement of immigration law should be placed in the hands of the federal government. [287(g)] creates an additional level of distrust in the community."