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Little Rock, Arkansas- The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas denounces the 90 day extension of the Department of Homeland Security’s (“DHS”) Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (“ICE”) controversial 287(g) program to four police departments in Arkansas: Benton County Sheriff’s Department, Washington County Sheriff’s Department, Springdale Police Department, and Rogers Police Department. The program, in place since 2007, was set to expire on or around September 30, 2012. 

The 287(g) program delegates federal immigration authority to state and local law enforcement agencies. It has been criticized by the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general and denounced by civil rights groups for promoting racial profiling of Latinos in particular. 

While the program purports to identify and deport the “worst of the worst” criminals who may also be immigrants, the lion’s share of deportations under the program in Arkansas and nationwide have been aimed at persons charged with minor offenses (including traffic violations) or having no criminal record whatsoever. ICE’s own statistics show that nationwide, 79% of those deported under this program were either non-criminals or were picked up (and not necessarily charged or convicted) for lower level offenses. Nationally, only 21% were charged with or convicted of a serious felony. ICE’s data for Arkansas shows that 62% of those snared in the program in Arkansas are people with no criminal records (35%) or only misdemeanor or other citation or low level offenses (27%). 

““Instead of going after ‘the worst of the worst,’ as promised”, said Rita Sklar, Executive Director of the ACLU of Arkansas, “immigrants have reported that local police are targeting anyone who may be an immigrant, and are policing markets, churches, and areas of town frequented by Hispanic or Latino populations for immigration, and not criminal issues. This is offensive to American values and undermines immigrants’ trust in local law enforcement and the American rule of law. The government has also undermined the trust of the American people by making no attempt to address with local police the disconnect between the program’s stated purpose and the realities of its enforcement.”

“Understanding that immigrants may fear calling police, criminals target immigrants as victims. “ICE has led us to a situation where crime victims are afraid to call police,” said ACLU of Arkansas Staff Attorney Holly Dickson. “While police are busy deporting people with traffic tickets, the children of the deported are left behind, often winding up in the care of Arkansas’s already overburdened foster care system. Law enforcement resources and tax dollars are being spent in ways that actually are making us less safe.” 

On September 26, the ACLU joined faith, labor, immigration advocacy and other civil rights organizations in sending a letter to DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano and ICE Director John Morton urging them to terminate the 287(g) program.

The letter is available at:
www.aclu.org/files/assets/terminate_287g_sign_on_final_sept_26.pdf

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